Health bosses grilled over Royston’s future

09:53 03 May 2012

HEALTH bosses were this week grilled by senior Royston politicians angered over the emergency closure of inpatient care at the town’s hospital.

Oliver Heald MP and county councillors Fiona Hill and Tony Hunter sat down with executives from the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust and Primary Care Trust (PCT) to discuss their concerns over the hospital.

Mr Heald slammed the decision to move Royston patients displaced by the closure to Hitchin Hospital as a “blunder” because the NHS originally promised they would stay in the town.

He said: “We pushed very hard and they are going to be coming to us with full answers.

“When they took Royston patients and started moving the beds to Hitchin I said it was a blunder in the meeting.”

He added: “I feel it was what they call in a diplomatic talk a full and frank exchange of views when we asked them about moving Royston patients to Hitchin when they promised Royston patients would be in Royston beds.”

Cllr Hill echoed her Conservative colleague telling the Crow she hit out at board members expressing “how appalled we were that patients were moved from Royston after the assurances we were given”.

The early closure came as part of a reshuffle of health provision in the town which will see Royston Hospital redeveloped into a 90-bed care home and the existing health centre extended to take on displaced out-patient clinics.

Hertfordshire County Council will run the home and is leading the search for a private care provider to develop the £12m facility which is due to open in 2015.

The health centre extension was originally mooted as temporary but was revealed to be a permanent addition when NHS Hertfordshire announced their decision earlier this year.

It has also emerged it will cost £1m – an added £200,000 to the PCT’s original estimated cost. Royston’s politicians are concerned at the legacy this will leave for the town and fought for answers.

Mr Heald said: “We pushed for answers, I want to know what the full investment in the town will be, and how much it will cost to build this new facility and pushed to know if it will meet the medium and long-term needs in the town.”

The chief executives of both NHS bodies were at the meeting and a statement from the PCT portrays it in a different light.

The statement described it as a chance for health bosses to “set out how high quality, sustainable health and social care services will be delivered in Royston over the coming years”.

A PCT spokesman said: “The NHS and the county council explained the reasons that developing the new care home was essential to making sure Royston retained services for the future.

“They also explained that the outdated layout and footprint of the existing hospital building does not meet NHS standards of accommodation and prevents staff from delivering the excellent quality care that Royston patients deserve.

“They explained that bringing NHS beds into a new care home was the best way forward to secure significant healthcare investment in Royston and ensure that people in Royston are cared for close to where they actually live.

“A new joint facility is the best way for the NHS to flexibly use inpatient beds so that they are able to respond to any short-term surges in demand, for example during winter months.”

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