Wiltshire Publications

No benefit to local healthcare from hospital sale

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 5th, 2018 at 11:57 am.

FURTHER disappointment, to end years of campaigning over the Westbury Hospital site, has been expressed as NHS Property Services has sold the former hospital for £2.475million to developers; the funds will now be distributed nationally within the NHS – with no plans for any of the money to be reinvested locally in the town.

Nicola Booth, senior transaction manager for NHS Property Services said, “We are pleased to be returning vital funds to the NHS while releasing this site so that it can be brought back to use.

“By selling land that the NHS no longer needs, we can also help increase efficiency and reduce the operational costs of the estate we oversee.

“Proceeds from the sale will be reinvested in the NHS nationally.”

But local people have hit back saying the money should be used to improve healthcare locally.

The hospital site was purchased by the community in  1932, before the birth of the NHS and was funded by generous donations from individuals and groups in Westbury. Westbury Hospital League of Friends was formed in 1954 to raise money for extra beds, equipment and services and its annual town fete was supported by crowds of local people. The group’s support, along with money raised by other individuals and local groups, raised £1.5million over the years. When the hospital faced closure, money was still donated to providing ‘extras’ such as respite beds in local care homes.

Local groups had fought a long campaign to save the hospital since its initial proposal for closure back in 2004.

It was announced in 2007 that the Primary Care Trust would begin a phased closure of services, ready for the opening of the proposed White Horse Health Centre.

Westbury campaigner, Eddie Bridges, wanted to mount a legal challenge to discover who actually owned the hospital, saying that as the hospital was built before the NHS, it was paid for by local benefactors and owned by local people. However, the local authority said a challenge could not be made due to costs.

As the battle continued, Westbury residents and town groups such as the League of Friends, Royal British Legion and the Save the Hospital group joined together in a final bid to save services. However, the hospital finally closed in 2012 and has since been left derelict. From 2015-2017 STOP (Sensible thinking on patients) was formed and  was very active, continuing the battle, despite the closure.

Erica Watson, chair of the League of Friends  (LOF) and member of the STOP group told White Horse News, “From 2004, when we were first informed of the proposed closure of the hospital, which had been tirelessly supported by the Westbury people, until 2017 we relentlessly protested that the town needed to retain initially the hospital itself and then STOP and LOF fought for the site to be retained as a healthcare facility.

“As everyone now knows, our concerns were ignored and our voices not heard either by the NHS locally or nationally. Our feelings regarding the site being sold and all of the £2.5million being invested nationally, rather than reinvested locally, were one of anger, but resignation.

“The community here has donated over £1.5million for the hospital and healthcare in the town and surrounding villages and for this huge contribution to be ignored and never acknowledged, is disappointing at best.

“Westbury appears to have to get used to being seen as bottom of the list for any improvement in either infrastructure or investment in healthcare.

“The developers of the site have appreciated the town’s strong connection to the hospital and have been in touch with the League of Friends, so that the foundation stones and other memorabilia are being preserved on site. This is encouraging as the NHS has made no effort to recognise the importance of the loss of a hospital built by and for the community. At least the site will now always have some of the history preserved and that is sadly the best we can hope for.

“In closing I would like to say that I feel confident that community hospital beds will be needed again in the future but am aware of the financial restraints which prevent this at present.”

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