Wiltshire Publications

Two years after closure – should Westbury Hospital be re-opened?

THE news that new NHSchief, Simon Stevens, has called for smaller community hospitals to play a bigger role in local health care, has touched a nerve in Westbury where campaigners fought and lost a battle to keep the community hospital open.

Simon Stevens who recently took over as the chief executive of the NHS has called for a change in the health service with a shift of services away from centralised hospitals and towards local community hospitals – like the one in Westbury that closed nearly two years ago.

In recent years the health service has emphasised the benefits of centralised hospitals and as a result, services from community hospitals were cut and moved to central locations. This move has seen Westbury hospital close and patients have been forced to travel to  Bath or further for health care.

Westbury and District League of Friends was originally the Hospital League Of Friends, and was formed to support local health services when Westbury Hospital was built.  Despite the hospital’s closure, the group continues to raise money to help local people.

Erica Watson vice-chair of Westbury League of Friends said, “There does need to be a much better balance between the large specialist hospitals and home care.

“Re-opening community hospitals could provide the holistic approach to health care which older people need before they are discharged home. Early discharge to home often results in readmission and also puts an unacceptable strain on community staff and carers. Home care is often provided by private agencies which are costly and it begs the question as to why older people should have to pay for nursing care.

“Re-opening community hospitals such as Westbury would provide the solution to the pressures which Simon Stevens talks about and it is something which would be welcomed by many communities across the country.

“Environmentally it would save huge amounts in travel costs and allow much-needed respite care for those well enough for discharge from acute care but not well enough to go home.”

Reviewing the value of small community hospitals, Simon Stevens said in a recent interview, “A number of other countries have found it possible to run viable local hospitals serving smaller communities than sometimes we think are sustainable in the NHS. Most of western Europe has hospitals which are able to serve their local communities, without everything having to be centralised.

“The NHS needs to abandon its fixation with mass centralisation and instead invest in community services.”

Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group is currently consulting on a five-year plan that sets out how more health care can be provided at home or in the community. A public consultation will take place on Monday 16th June between 7.00pm-9.00pm at the Corn Exchange in Devizes to discuss the future of healthcare in Wiltshire.