New era starts for Wells Community Hospital
A North Norfolk hospital which was saved from closure after massive support from the community has reached a key milestone - and ambitious plans are in place to increase its range of services.
The Wells hospital - which opened in 1910 - faced a bleak future in 2004 when in-patient beds were shut.
Following a public meeting attended by hundreds of people, a campaign backed by the EDP was launched to protect the well-loved facility.
A charitable trust was formed two years later and NHS services currently provided by Wells Community Hospital include a paediatric clinic, podiatry and leg ulcer clinics.
There is also a wide range of pay-for services such as physiotherapy, osteoporosis screening and acupuncture.
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It was yesterday revealed that the freehold of the building, which was owned by NHS Norfolk, has been transferred to the Wells Community Hospital Trust (WCHT).
The trust has ambitious plans to develop health services on the site including offering a holiday renal dialysis service, aimed at people who are spending time away in North Norfolk and who need frequent dialysis.
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Chairman of the Wells Community Hospital Trust Jonathan Hazell said: 'This is a significant milestone for Wells Community Hospital and for the people we exist to serve.
'Our vision is for local people in North Norfolk, served by Wells Hospital for so many years, to take the responsibility for developing and managing a new, expanded hospital and community health service, appropriate to their present and future needs, and with the highest possible standards of care.'
NHS Norfolk chairman Sheila Childerhouse said: 'We wish the hospital well. It is much loved within the community and is an innovative approach, which others may wish to follow.
'It also fits well with the strategy to place healthcare closer to people's homes.'
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, has written to NHS Norfolk praising the move as a 'fascinating and impressive example of partnership' between the NHS and the voluntary sector.
'It is an excellent step forward,' he said.
In a letter to Mrs Childerhouse Mr Lamb said: 'You and your colleagues are to congratulated on an excellent example of working with the voluntary sector.'
In a business case submitted to NHS Norfolk last year, Wells Community Hospital Trust said its catchment area was primarily Wells, Burnham, Brancaster, Walsingham, Rudham, Docking and Hunstanton.
It went on to say: 'The vision at Wells Community Hospital is for a community healthcare complex, with all services located on the existing site and adjoining land.
'The proposal is to develop a complex with intermediate care beds and dementia support services', ambulatory care, domiciliary care and a housing with care scheme offering independent living with care available when needed.'