Royston Hospital faces privatisation

A COMMUNITY hospital could be privatised and shut for at least three years while changes to its structure are made, a report revealed this week.

The primary care trust (PCT) is proposing to find an independent care provider to redevelop Royston Hospital, according to a consultation published on Tuesday.

It wants to provide half-a-dozen intermediate care beds and about 40 residential beds, in a new facility on the hospital site.

And it proposes that outpatient clinics, community services, and other services currently at the hospital, could be provided in the new facility on the hospital site, or in an extension to Royston Health Centre, or possibly at an alternative location.

The shake-up means that the hospital could close to inpatients next year and outpatient services be transferred to local centres. The earliest a new site could open would be 2015.

Veteran campaigner Terry Hutt said: “The people of Royston have been saying to me all along that this hospital belongs to them. They put in the money, it is there for the community.

“Our concern about privatisation is money. We are concerned, because they are there to make money, at our expense. At the moment, you could not have a better service than Royston.”

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The new site would act as a residential nursing home as well as a centre for intermediate care. The number of beds for the latter, if proposals were to go ahead, would be half of what it is currently.

The new site could also provide outpatient clinics and community services.

A spokesman from Herts Community NHS Trust said: “We welcome the publication of the commissioners’ proposals for the future shape of intermediate care services in North Hertfordshire.

“Our focus remains on ensuring that everything we do is centred on the care of our patients and addressing the needs of them, their carers and their families.

“With this in mind, we will be keen to explore with the commissioners new ways of caring for people in their own homes. We believe an expanded home-based support service is absolutely fundamental in keeping people out of hospital and in their home environment.”

A public consultation is now underway, and is due to end on Friday, February 3 next year.

North East Herts MP Oliver Heald said: “I will want to study these plans carefully and encourage all Royston people to do so and respond to the consultation.

“The land for the hospital was given by local people for a hospital and Royston people will want to consider whether selling the land provides adequate assurance of NHS hospital services continuing in the town for the future.”