New owner of Ottery St Mary Hospital confirms market charges

Ottery St Mary Hospital entrance. Ref sho 7454-44-14TI Picture: Terry Ife

Ottery St Mary Hospital entrance. Ref sho 7454-44-14TI Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

The company set to take over ownership of Ottery St Mary Hospital was accused this week of ‘playing shops with public money’.

Representatives spoke out in anger after NHS Property Services confirmed it would charge market-based rents for service providers for the first time in its buildings – affecting the town’s Keegan Close site, which the company is due to take on in June.

The Herald revealed last month that the impending change in ownership has cast fresh doubt over the future of the community hospital, amid fears that if the site does not prove financially viable, it could be sold off.

But the company - which is responsible for managing 4,000 NHS buildings – has said it does not have the power to determine whether or not sites are surplus to requirements and it is tasked with improving efficiency.

The chairman of Ottery Hospital League of Friends, Adrian Rutter, told the Herald: “We really are concerned about it. We do not see the reason for the rental arrangement that is coming in because it’s a matter of the treasury paying a trust to pay the treasury.

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“We are very concerned about what it means for the future of the hospital sites to people for health and wellbeing. It’s playing shops with public money.”

A statement from NHS Property Services explained providers in its freehold buildings would pay a ‘professionally-assessed market rent’, plus additional charges.

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The Department of Health’s commercial director has supported the move and said he would work to mitigate the effects of any increases.

The chair of the town’s health and social care forum Elli Pang has long-held concerns about implications of the new owners and said it would be a ‘blatant stripping of community assets’.

But East Devon MP Hugo Swire has stressed that NHS Property Services would not have power to sell-off the site.

He said: “I have already written to NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, NHS Property Services and others in an effort to find a way forward on the specific issue of rents and I will continue to do all that I can to support East Devon’s excellent community hospitals.”

Hospital campaigner and county councillor Claire Wright has slammed the government policy that allows the transfer of a community-funded asset into the hands of the company.

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