Town angry at 'health village' plan

PUBLISHED: 08:20 08 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:58 22 October 2010

Authorities have backed plans to replace Dereham Hospital with a health village and expressed surprise at the widespread opposition to an "enormous opportunity".

Authorities have backed plans to replace Dereham Hospital with a health village and expressed surprise at the widespread opposition to an "enormous opportunity".

The proposals to put a nursing home, community clinic and care-assisted houses on the hospital site in Cemetery Road has sparked anger in the town, with 200 people voicing concerns at a meeting last month over the loss of NHS beds.

But members of Southern Norfolk Primary Care Trust (SNPCT) board supported the proposal, paving the way for the trust and its partner company Norlife to draw up a planning application.

Board members called for Dereham residents to recognise how the scheme would allow a far greater range of services to be offered at the site and provide NHS care based on demand.

The redesigned site would include a nursing home, a replacement GP surgery for the Theatre Royal practice, care-assisted housing, a community clinic, an out-of-hours service and therapy and rehabilitation services.

Hospital care would be provided within the nursing home, with a minimum of 20 beds set aside for NHS care. The number is less than the 41 beds in the existing hospital but the trust says it will be able to request more beds from the nursing home depending on demand.

SNPCT chief executive Chris Humphris said: "The great beauty of the scheme is that you do not have to make a choice forever and are forced to work with a fixed number of beds from which you can never deviate."

Dr John Sampson said that local GP practices should be coming forward with other services they would like to see provided at the health village.

He said: "The opportunities are enormous and I find it difficult to understand why it is not more strongly supported by the local people.

"Other areas would be jumping over themselves for this sort of opportunity."

Freda Abell, a leading member of the Friends of Dereham Hospital, remains opposed to the scheme.

"This is a very short-term measure. Dereham is a growing town, you have only got to look at the number of houses going up, and there are more elderly people than ever," she said.

"The PCT need to be a little bit more long-sighted and give more thought to the future size of the town.

"This is all about just saving money, if I was a very ill old lady I would not want to be in a nursing home or my own home, I would want to be in hospital with nurses all around me."

She also expressed doubts over whether the nursing home would be willing to surrender beds for NHS care when the trust demanded them.

The nursing home would be run by Lincoln Healthcare, which currently runs the 62-bed Lincoln House nursing home in Swanton Morley, and care-assisted housing would be run by Circle Anglia.

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