Strong turnout as people rally to fight for future of Ottery St Mary Hospital

MP Hugo Swire visited Ottery St Mary hospital on Saturday where he spoke with protesters. Ref sho 21

MP Hugo Swire visited Ottery St Mary hospital on Saturday where he spoke with protesters. Ref sho 21-16SH 4957. Picture: Simon Horn. - Credit: Archant

Scores of protesters turned out to express anger that the facility could be under threat

Ottery St Mary’s community once again rallied to fight for its community hospital at a protest on Saturday.

Scores of angry campaigners turned out to express their disgust that the future of the much-loved facility could be under threat due to an impending change of ownership.

With the transfer to new owners, NHS Property Services, a commercial income would need to be generated from part of the building.

Protest organiser Claire Wright spoke of her anger that the hospital – built with £250,000 of community funds – could be at risk of being ‘sold off’ if it does not prove financially viable.

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She accused the Government of turning ‘beloved centres of care’ into ‘cash cows and urged residents to take action by writing to the press, lobbying MPs and representatives and joining the hospital’s league of friends.

East Devon MP Hugo Swire also turned out and addressed the crowd, warning against ‘scaremongering’ over the future of community hospitals.

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The show of direct action comes in the wake of a long-running battle to save the inpatient bed unit, a petition that gained the support of more than 11,000 people in the town and a failed judicial review into the decision.

NHS Property Services manages 4,000 NHS buildings worth an estimated £3billion. Its remit is to renovate or sell properties according to needs, with any money saved ploughed back into the NHS.

In response to the planned protest, a spokesman for the company last week stressed that decisions about service provision in Ottery lie with the healthcare commissioners, not the building’s owner.

He said: “These healthcare commissioning decisions, as opposed to market rent, will be the primary factor in determining future service provision at the hospital.

“Market rent helps the NHS understand the true costs of its property and provides funds for reinvestment. The Department of Health has also committed to meeting any increased NHS property costs in the 2016/17 financial year arising from market rent.”

Read more in the Ottery Herald on Friday.

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