SPECIAL REPORT: The future of health care in Royston revealed

VISIONS for health care in Royston when the town’s hospital closes for redevelopment were revealed to residents, GPs and politicians this week.

Representatives of NHS Hertfordshire shone a light on four proposals for outpatient care that will cover the three-year period when Royston Hospital is closed.

A private care home operator is being sought to pay for the redevelopment and help run the new operation.

However the cost of the project is unknown as it has not yet gone to tender.

Jacqui Bunce, NHS commissioning officer, said: “Within that facility we want to be able to buy beds flexibility, recognising that we know we need around five or six beds, but that may be more in future.

“The way we can do that is by working in partnership with the county council and with the intermediate care sector to be able to buy those beds in a different way and we recognise that it would need to be a new facility.

The site is currently home to a variety of clinics - including musculoskeletal services for treating arthritis, which sees 6,000 patients each year, and they will need to be moved while work is carried out.

Most Read

Although suggestions had already been put forward, health bosses revealed details and costing at Tuesday’s conversation caf�, held at Royston Golf Club.

A temporary facility could be placed on the hospital site while improvements are carried out, although it is estimated that would cost almost �1m.

Patients could not stay at the London Road site while a demolition crew works because of health and safety reasons.

Duncan Butler, a development consultant employed to examine the plans, explained the problems and positives with the scheme.

He said: “You could do what we call a cut and fill where you cut a big chunk of the land out and make it level so you can drop a temporary building there, but any sort of ground work is expensive.

“The person who owns the site at the end may say you have to put it all back again, which would add an additional cost.

“You have to pay for delivery, and you have to pay for installation and the groundworks.

“Modular units are very expensive when they are meeting the clinical requirements of the NHS.”

An extension to the existing health centre, near the town hall was also explored which would mean a second floor and lift being added to the building.

The structure would be supported by a steel frame and a lift would be added to improve access.

It is estimated the work would cost roughly �800,000 and would bring the town’s health care facilities together, as well as using existing car parking facilities.

However, there are fears that this could disrupt the health centre and could prove too expensive as a temporary solution, but could be adopted permanently.

The PCT also looked at permanently, or temporarily, relocating services to a private property, but this could prove costly as the bosy would have to convert the site and pay two years of rates.

NHS Herts may also have to pay for the site to be returned to its previous state.

Several buildings in the town have been examined by the consultants Guildhouse UK – but no formal offers have yet been made.

Another suggestion was put forward by Dr Peter Gough, a GP at Market Hill surgery, and head of the clinical commissioning group which will take over local health care provision in April 2013.

He would like to see the health centre improved permanently and developed into a health hub for the town, with facilities greatly improved to allow health care professionals to work together for the benefit of patients.

Dr Gough told The Crow: “I put it forward because the care of patients is about health professionals working together in the community for the interest of the patients.

“Therefore I think this is a good opportunity to make sure we care for people in Royston.”

The views of those who attended were collected by the NHS and will feed into a consultation on the proposals which will inform the decision, to be made after it closes on February 3.

Oliver Heald, the town’s MP, attended the meeting,

He said: “I am keen that we should obtain the best deal for Royston and retain all the services we have at the moment, and a good platform for the future.

“From the conversation caf�, there does seem to be a difference of views about whether the long-term future is to build clinic space at the new care home facility proposed on the existing hospital site, or develop the health centre and see what land adjacent might be available for future expansion, or try to go for something new in the longer term.”

Royston Town Council’s general purposes and highways committee was due to discuss the proposals and respond, but it was deferred until full council on January 16, in order to give all councillors a chance to voice their opinions.

District and county councillors were also discussed the matter last night (Wednesday).