Community hospital hopes get PCT boost

The chances of people in Eye being allowed to take over their own community hospital were given a significant boost yesterday when Suffolk PCT announced it wants healthcare to remain on the site.

The chances of people in Eye being allowed to take over their own community hospital were given a significant boost yesterday when Suffolk PCT announced

it wants healthcare to remain on the

site.

In February, the primary care trust announced that the few remaining beds at Hartismere Hospital would be phased out from this month and the Victorian building now deemed not fit for service would be put on the open market.

Valued at about £4m, the site could attract the interest of big-money developers looking to build a new housing estate - much like on the site of the former Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

In February, the PCT would only state that it was "too early to say" whether

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a healthcare consortium would automatically become preferred bidder, raising the prospect that the cash-strapped group, this week revealed to be £31m in debt, instead preferred to sell to the highest bidder.

But yesterday the PCT said: "The old hospital will eventually be offered for sale and the site for redevelopment. The PCT's preferred option is to select a partner who will, as part of the site development, build a residential or other care facility on

the site.

The EDP has previously revealed that the former Hartismere League of Friends pressure group has now transformed into a group of local people who wanted to take over the running of the hospital, creating a health village with the help of private backers.

And yesterday's announcement by the PCT will put that group in pole position to take over the site, building a modern community hospital with beds, clinics

and diagnostic facilities, a doctors' surgery, birthing pool and sheltered housing.

PCT chief executive Carole Taylor-Brown said: "We recently had a very productive meeting with the Hartismere Health Development Group to discuss and understand each other's position.

"The PCT and the group clearly have similar aims over a wide number of issues.

Eric Havers, vice-chairman of the Hartismere Health Development Group, said his members also believed the meeting had been productive but that it was too early to say anything more.

Yesterday, the PCT announced that services currently offered in

outbuildings such as the Gilchrist Centre, the Lodge and the old ambulance station will be moved into the main hospital in the next few weeks. Those buildings will then be closed.