Questions over viability of turning Ottery Hospital into ‘health hub’

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

A health group chairman is urging representatives to look ‘at the bigger picture’ as the future of Ottery hospital hangs in the balance.

Concerns have been raised over the impending change of ownership to NHS Property Services – under which a commercial rent would need to be generated from leasing a percentage of the building.

Town councillor Elli Pang – who also chairs Ottery’s health and social care forum – raised the issue at a recent town council meeting and said if the facility could not be proved financially viable, it was at risk of being sold.

But Councillor Roger Giles said the focus should remain on fighting for the retention of inpatient beds – after the NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) governing body made the controversial decision to close them in July.

Cllr Pang said: “While I agree that we should be concerned about the beds, what I am concerned about is that we may not have a building when it goes into the property of NHS Property Services. If it is not commercially viable, then it will be sold. The bigger issue is the long-term viability of the building.”

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This week, Cllr Pang said there was no guarantee the CCG’s proposed model of turning the hospital into a health and wellbeing hub would prove viable and expressed concern about what would happen if it was not.

Hospital campaigner and county councillor Claire Wright said: “There have been long-standing worries about Ottery hospital’s building being sold off once the beds were closed and this was one of the reasons that the community, other councillors and I objected so vociferously to the bed losses.”

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She urged East Devon’s MP Hugo Swire to ‘urgently intervene’ with the secretary of state for health to safeguard the building.

Commenting on progress made in turning the hospital into a health and wellbeing hub, Dr Alex Degan, a GP and CCG board member, said: “We are in the process of working with the community to set up a steering group for the development of the community hospital, which we hope will include the hospital league of friends, clinicians, community representatives and the NHS.”

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