Wiltshire Publications

Westbury Hospital – new campaign group launched

LOCAL campaigners who are fighting to save Westbury Hospital from development have set up a new pressure group, Sensible Thinking on Patients (STOP).

The group was formed as the news was given that Westbury is not to be considered as a location for Wiltshire’s new specialist dementia ward.

League of Friends and now STOP member Erica Watson said, “The STOP group’s aims are to engage with the wider Wiltshire community in order to try to save the Westbury Hospital site for Wiltshire, not just for the Westbury area.

“We are composing a letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt which will be widely copied to others including as many local papers as we can.

“We encourage White Horse News readers to visit our website www.whitehorse westbury.com and sign up to support our aims.”

STOP are intent on trying to prevent houses being built on the hospital site, and instead having the premises used as a healthcare facility.

Sensible Thinking On Patients was formed by members from the League of Friends, the Royal British Legion, and the disbanded Save the Hospital group, and held its first meeting on Thursday 26th March. They will meet again on Thursday 9th April.

The campaigners’ first hope for the site was quashed when Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) announced that the county’s new specialist dementia unit would remain in Salisbury. Members of the STOP group had hoped it could be set up in Westbury, and outgoing MP Dr Andrew Murrison had backed their ambition.

Westbury’s League of Friends were also unhappy about the decision to base the unit in Salisbury.

Vice-chair Erica Watson said, “Westbury and District League of Friends were disappointed with the decision to place the dementia beds at the far edge of the county where it will remain difficult for many relatives and carers to visit their loved ones easily.

“We do fully appreciate the challenges that the Clinical Commissioning Group face trying to balance provision of care  with huge demands on their budget, and are aware that the dementia unit already running in Salisbury is purpose-built and an obvious choice financially. However, it is hard not to feel that the recent consultation was meaningless.

“The LOF together with the newly formed STOP (Sensible Thinking On Patients) will continue to explore how the Westbury hospital site can be retained as a health and social care site for Wiltshire and plan to engage with the wider community in Wiltshire to highlight the need to plan for more hospital beds, not less.”

Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group said, “The consultation, carried out by independent community champions, Healthwatch Wiltshire took into account the views and opinions of people with dementia, their carers, residents, volunteers, community groups and professionals around the county.

“Nearly three-quarters (71%) of those consulted were in favour of continuing to provide specialist hospital dementia care from Amblescroft South, the current temporary location of specialist hospital dementia care in Wiltshire.”

Dr Murrison recently expressed his disappointment at the CCG’s decision to keep the unit in Salisbury.

He said, “Salisbury is hopeless for most of my more vulnerable constituents and for the majority of people living with dementia in Wiltshire. If this unit is set up in Salisbury, all people in Westbury, Trowbridge and Chippenham will see is the removal of a local service and the creation of one that is remote and irrelevant to their needs. Where’s the assurance they will have a similar level of service in units much closer to home?

“I support a new specialist dementia unit for Wiltshire and congratulate the CCG for prioritising dementia care. However, a cursory look at the HealthWatch report raises serious concerns over methodology and thus the validity of the consultation.

“Apparently of the one-to-one interviews conducted as part of the consultation not one was in Westbury, Warminster or Trowbridge. It looks like there was weighting in favour of Salisbury in the consultation exercises, however inadvertent, but no weighting for harder to reach communities so I’m not surprised if Salisbury came out on top.

“The finding I will accept, since it’s obvious, is that most respondents want to be cared for close to home. Why then ignore the demographics of the patient population and locate Wiltshire’s only specialist dementia unit at the far south-eastern end of a difficult to traverse county?”

The ex-military medic and has written to the CCG to challenge the consultation and to suggest it is quickly amended with Westbury as an option and with people from Trowbridge, Warminster and Westbury properly involved.

Dr Murrison has also written to Jeremy Hunt to express his concern that Westbury was not included in the original consultation proposals and to ask for his intervention.

NHS Property Services, who own the Westbury Hospital site, are carrying on with their plans.

A spokesman said, “We are continuing to prepare an outline planning application for the former Westbury Hospital site which we intend to submit to Wiltshire Council later this year.”

A national campaign is under way to try and stop government passing the Hospital Closure clause in the new Care Bill. The closure clause will give the government power to close hospitals with minimal public consultation. The petition can be signed at 38degrees.org.uk/hands-off-our-hospitals.