A SUDDEN closure will see Royston Hospital shut its doors to in-patients next week in a move criticised as revealing health bosses’ “hidden agenda”.

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The hospital will close on Tuesday as the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust says it cannot maintain staffing levels at the London Road site.

In-patient care was due to stop at the end of June following an NHS Hertfordshire (PCT), decision after a public consultation. It was a process dismissed by the Royston Labour Party as hollow and unconvincing.

Royston Labour Party spokesman, Les Baker, said: “This latest move appears to show that the health authority has all the time been working to a hidden agenda.

“Its so-called consultation was clearly a hollow exercise which, I don’t believe, convinced anyone of the health authority’s claims that it would be persuaded by public opinion.

“It is the health authority that created uncertainty over the future of the hospital – whether by mismanagement or sleight of hand – and seems determined to ride roughshod over all other opinions.”

It is expected the nine patients currently being treated at the hospital will finish their treatment by that date, out-patient care is not expected to be affected.

Patients due to be treated in Royston will now be cared for at Hitchin Hospital, until plans for temporary provision in the town have been finalised while a new site is developed.

Defending the early closure, Julie Hoare, Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust’s director of operations, said: “The imminent permanent closure of the hospital has meant that we have been unable to fill vacancies at the hospital and it has become difficult for the remaining staff to take on existing workloads.

“It will get to the stage where there are risks to the quality of treatment and levels of safety offered to patients at the hospital while under our care.

“This is unacceptable, so we have taken the decision to relocate the in-patient beds. We have informed NHS Hertfordshire (the PCT) of our decision.”

No redundancies are expected through the move.

The League of Friends of Royston and District Hospital have also hit out at the plans accusing the NHS of burying bad news over the Easter period.

The group has also criticised health bosses for rejecting the Friends’ plea to fund in-patient care until the original June cut off date.

A spokesman said: “The attitude of the PCT has clearly demonstrated their lack of commitment to developing services that move care closer to home” in Royston.

“Royston Hospital was funded by, and served, all the surrounding villages in the area, including those from South Cambridgeshire and the appalling shenanigans on the part of the PCT strengthen the evidence for the Royston GPs wishing to form a cross-border GP clinical commissioning group.

“The League of Friends want this piecemeal dismantling of services at Royston Hospital to cease immediately, services to be restored, and a moratorium called on all decisions until the GP commissioning group takes over.”

A new facility to replace the current hospital is scheduled to be up and running in 2015 after an estimated two years of building, however the project has not yet gone to tender.

The combined value of the land and current building is £2.7m and it will be sold to a residential nursing home provider in partnership with Hertfordshire County Council, which will then manage in-patient care.

Royston Health Centre, on Melbourn Street, will be extended to house clinics currently located in the hospital, which see approximately 6,000 patients each year.

It was originally suggested the extension would be temporary but will now be permanent, subject to planning permission being granted.

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