Royston Community Health to close as hospital hub plan deemed unattainable

North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald with Maggie Allen from Royston Community Health. Picture: RCH

North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald with Maggie Allen from Royston Community Health. Picture: RCH - Credit: Archant

The Community Interest Company founded to lead the effort to secure the future of the Royston Hospital site - by transforming it into a health and social care hub - is to close.  

The aim of Royston Community Health, the not-for-profit social enterprise, was to future-proof the hospital - which had its bed removed in 2012 and operates some services such as physiotherapy and a diabetic eye clinic.

Royston Hospital

Royston Hospital - Credit: Archant

RCH wanted to see the hospital become an environmentally-friendly integrated hub for two GP surgeries – as well as services including district nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and an integrated care home. Current directors of the CIC are Maggie Allen, Philip Franks and Dr John Hedges - Bob Smith and Dr Chrissie Pepper had been directors previously. 

In saving the hospital site for future use, Royston Community Health's work was to "ensure everyone in Royston and the surrounding area has the best chances of optimal health and wellbeing throughout their lives, supported by local NHS facilities".

Though huge effort was put in by campaigners and strides were made including meeting then health secretary Jeremy Hunt at Westminster in 2017, the decision has now been made to close the CIC. 

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, centre, with district councillor Tony Hunter, NE Herts MP Sir O

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, centre, with district councillor Tony Hunter, NE Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald, RCH's Maggie Allen, county councillor Fiona Hill and Peter Franks of RCH. - Credit: Archant

In a statement, RCH said: "It is with regret that the directors of Royston Community Health CIC have decided to close the Community Interest Company as from the end of May 2021.

"We have tried to achieve a health and social care hub for the town and area over the last seven years and many of you have supported us, signed petitions and followed our progress.

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"Unfortunately, the multiplicity of stakeholders has proved too complex to allow a co-ordinated plan - with full commitment from key players -  to progress effectively.

Maggie Allen is hoping for a final boost of signatures in their petition to secure the future of Roy

Maggie Allen, pictured at a Royston Community Health meeting in the parish church in 2017. - Credit: Archant

"We would like to thank all those local companies and people who have supported us financially and with their time and expertise over the years and particularly UHY Hacker Young, MP Sir Oliver Heald and councillors Fiona Hill and Tony Hunter for their unstinting support.

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"We hope that one day the ideas we have proposed might be reconsidered."

Maggie Allen further added: "The size and complexity of the NHS means it’s impossible to move any plans along at speed. 

Bob Smith and Maggie Allen go through the plans for the Royston Hospital site.

A Royston Community Health meeting in the parish church in 2017. - Credit: Archant

"We took the issue to Jeremy Hunt in 2017 when he was Secretary of State for Health but he had little say over how the local NHS should proceed, although he did write in support of us.

"We worked with the NHS to get plans drawn up - which they paid for - but ultimately that went no further."

"It is possible that another group could take on the task at a point in the future when they are more likely to succeed."

MP Sir Oliver Heald and councillors Hill and Hunter have pledged to continue to push for RCH's vision to become reality.

North East Herts MP Sir Oliver told the Crow: "Maggie Allen and the other leaders of the CIC including Peter Franks and Dr Hedges have worked extremely hard and have laid out a credible case for an NHS hub and for the future of Royston Hospital site, which already hosts many NHS outpatient clinics.

"Councillors Tony Hunter and Fiona Hill have shown stalwart support over a number of years and we have had petitions, consultations, meetings with the health secretary, questions in parliament and discussions with many NHS officials to make the case.

"The next step is to persuade NHS commissioners to fund plans for the NHS hub and make it happen. I will continue to press the case and I know councillors will too.

"I congratulate Maggie and her colleagues for their outstanding work and for setting out their vision. This is the end of an important chapter, but the story still needs a happy ending."

Royston Hospital in London Road.

Royston Hospital in London Road - Credit: Archant

Councillor Hill said: "It is extremely sad and disappointing to hear of the closure of the CIC.

"The directors have worked tirelessly with stakeholders to try and make their vision a reality. I have been delighted to wholeheartedly support them and fully appreciate their work and commitment over many years.

"In my position as county councillor, I will continue to lobby for the integrated health and social care provision we need and the ultimate ambition for a health hub in Royston”.

Councillor Hunter agreed the closure was sad and disappointing. 

He added: "We can but hope the NHS will see the sense of a health hub in Royston for integrated health and social care."

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