NHS shake-up could close Royston Hospital

THE future of a hospital threatened by closure could be unveiled tomorrow (Friday), but there are assurances that residents will “continue to fight” in order to keep it open.

Royston Hill Hospital has been facing closure for a number of years, with a report published by the primary care trust (PCT) in July 2010 indicating that community hospitals would be replaced by home care.

Two NHS reports published last month - a Quality Innovation Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) Plan and Strategy for Improving Healthcare - both state that there will be a reduction in intermediate care services similar to those provided at the hospital.

The former report states that the PCT hopes to “strengthen the position of home based care services” and introduce “a reduction on bed provision”. It also says that reprovision will be “done by other organisations”.

A consultation paper due to be published tomorrow will further reveal the hospital’s future.

Veteran community campaigner Terry Hutt said that he had this week been invited to speak to South Cambs MP and health secretary Andrew Lansley with regard to the facility.

Mr Hutt, who has also petitioned the issue, told The Crow: “The hospital is so important to the people of Royston. They’ve put their pennies into it over the years. It’s only recently that the NHS took it over.

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“People have really been concerned and worried. Recently, I was using it as well and I couldn’t speak more highly about what they do and how they support the people.

“Lots of people have been concerned for many years. We will continue to fight - I will not give up on this.”

There has already been a shake-up in services elsewhere in the county, with a similar facility near Watford closed earlier this year.

An NHS Herts spokesman said that it could not say what details would be in the report until it was released, and would neither confirm or deny that the hospital - or any other - would close.

She added: “A new vision for intermediate care - where more patients are looked after at home and beds are commissioned in a larger number of locations - was agreed by the board of NHS Hertfordshire (the primary care trust) in July 2010.

“A consultation is due to be published at the end of this week which will ask people for their views on how the vision is implemented in this part of Hertfordshire.”

A spokesman for Herts Community NHS Trust, the organisation responsible for specialist services including those at Hitchin Hospital, said: “We are aware of this engagement process beginning, which we believe will be a three month process. We are beginning to discuss issues with our staff.”