Ownership change ‘does not bode well’ for future of Sidmouth Victoria Hospital

Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Ref shs 3264-50-14AW. Picture: Alex Walton.

Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Ref shs 3264-50-14AW. Picture: Alex Walton. - Credit: Archant

Trustees to tackle ‘big problem’ amid concerns

Negotiations are under way to safeguard the £5million community investment in Sidmouth Victoria Hospital and keep a share of its ownership within the town.

The talks stem from concern over the future of the site, which is set to be handed over to NHS Property Services – a company that would seek to drive efficiency and generate a commercial rent from the building.

The change in ownership is due this spring when the hospital’s current service provider, the North Devon Healthcare Trust (NDHT), will hand over the reins to the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust.

Chairman of the hospital’s comforts fund, Graham Vincent, said trustees are working to tackle the ‘big problem’ of future ownership and have been consulting with the NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) - a body responsible for commissioning healthcare services.

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Mr Vincent said: “There is much concern over the ownership of community hospitals and hubs.

“Over the last 25 years, Sidmouth hospital has been rebuilt internally whilst retaining the Victorian exterior. The amount of money to rebuild and constantly upgrade equipment totals around £5million - which has come from the local community.”

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He revealed the CCG is trying to pursue a joint ownership option, which would enable communities to own a share in the buildings and gain greater control over their use and development in the future.

Another solution would be to create a Devon-wide community interest company, which would own a joint share and work on behalf of communities and the CCG.

The town’s minor injuries unit (MIU) - which was recently refurbished as part of a £1.2million community-funded investment - remains shut after it was temporarily closed in November to rein in ‘spiralling costs’.

Mr Vincent stressed that people in the town need to be able to influence services they receive – something that he said has been challenged recently – and he said the ownership needs to be aligned to the needs of the community.

Chairman of the Sid Valley’s patient participation group, Di Fuller, said: “We have the same concerns as the comforts fund. It’s not a good move for the patients – it would be much better if it was owned by the people who provide the services.”

She referenced the dilapidated state of Blackmore Drive doctors’ surgery – a building that is owned by NHS Property Services – and said the company’s failure to renovate that important site ‘does not bode well for the future of community hospitals’.

Dr Alex Degan, a GP and CCG board member, said: “This is very much work in progress, but we are working very closely with community representatives, local people and the voluntary sector on the future development of community services (as well as hospitals) in eastern Devon, including Ottery St Mary and Sidmouth.”

He said there is a ‘compelling narrative’ for the role of community services in meeting the needs of people as close to home as possible.

NHS Property Services is responsible for 4,000 NHS buildings worth an estimated £3billion. Its remit is to manage assets and modernise or sell buildings according to needs, as well as provide management support services,

A spokesman for the company said: “Our role is to work with commissioners to meet their healthcare estates requirements.”

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