Opinion - ‘Hospital beds essential - especially with Sidmouth’s impending problems’

Comforts Fund chairman Graham Vincent outside Sidmouth Victoria Hospital. Ref shs 24-16SH 8431. Pict

Comforts Fund chairman Graham Vincent outside Sidmouth Victoria Hospital. Ref shs 24-16SH 8431. Picture: Simon Horn. - Credit: Archant

Chairman of Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Comforts Fund invites decision-makers to see how town values its facility

Copy of a letter to the chief officer of the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group.

As chairman of the Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Comforts Fund, I am writing to the CCG to give an overview of the history of Sidmouth hospital, which you may wish to take into consideration when making critical decisions regarding the current consultation on the reduction of inpatient beds across Devon.

There has been a hospital in Sidmouth since 1884 and a few years later Queen Victoria gave her permission for her name to be used. Much upgrading has taken place since and been funded by the local community of Sidmouth. At a comforts fund meeting in 1989, it was agreed that a massive upgrade was required to bring the hospital up to date and, so massive was that upgrade, the work was split into five phases:

? Phase 1 - started in 1989, involved the demolition of the operating theatre in preparation for rebuilding in a new position together with a new maternity suite, two surgical wards, a recovery room, a nurse station and an anaesthetics room.

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? Phase 2 – started two years later and saw the demolition of the X-ray department and it subsequently rebuilt along with new apparatus and office and waiting room.

? Phase 3 – involved the demolition of the two Nightingale wards and the building of one-, two- and four-bed rooms (all en-suite), a new day room, TV room, dining room, nurse station and amenities area along with a new boiler and large storage area.

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The Princess Royal officially opened the first three phases in 1999.

? Phase 4 – this saw the demolition of the Mallison Unit, eight single and one double rooms (all en-suite) created and the seven existing corridor rooms refurbished and refitted as consultation rooms for visiting consultants from RD&E.

? Phase 5 – a new entrance and reception area was built after the existing kitchen and chapel of rest were completely refurbished. The physiotherapy building in the front courtyard was then demolished to enable provision of more parking facilities. A new occupation health unit was built together with a gym, three treatment rooms and an office.

The final figure of the cost of re-building, refurbishing and all the equipment is approximately £5m.

For the record, all the work has been funded by the local community in Sidmouth - not the NHS or the PFI. Sidmouth hospital is one of the best community hospitals (if not the most modern and well-equipped) in the South West of England.

Currently, we are in the process of creating a therapeutic garden for the rear courtyard that will be seen by inpatients on three elevations. It will contain a water feature, pergola and special flower beds that will benefit not only the patients but visitors as well. This will have great value in escalating the recovery time of the patients.

Sidmouth has one of the highest populations for retired people in the county and the highest number of people suffering with dementia in the country, whether they be elderly or not. This particular issue is not going to diminish and, as you are aware, the higher age element of the population is only going to increase.

This alone is indicative of the problems being faced by Sidmouth in the future.

Hospital inpatient beds are essential to any community, not least a community with such impending problems. I would therefore like to invite you to visit Sidmouth hospital to see what our local people have provided for their town. I would be pleased to accompany you and any other colleagues you may wish to invite around the hospital at a time convenient to you in the immediate future.

Graham Vincent

Chairman of trustees, Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Comforts Fund

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