‘This affects all of us, so we must act now’ – Community Health group host two public meetings on future of Royston Hospital

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

Bob Smith and Maggie Allen go through the plans for the Royston Hospital site. - Credit: Archant

More than 180 people attended two public meetings in Royston last week on the future of the town’s hospital site and healthcare provision.

Maggie Allen signs the petition.

Maggie Allen signs the petition. - Credit: Archant

A panel – made up of North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald, Kulbir Lalli, head of integrated accomodation commissioning at Herts County Council, county councillors Fiona Hill and Tony Hunter, GP Dr John Hedges, and Bob Smith, Philip Franks and Maggie Allen of meeting host Royston Community Health – answered questions from the public. The fourth RCH director, Dr Chrissie Pepper, was unable to attend the meeting the parish church.

Maggie opened Friday’s meeting with an impassioned speech as to why the meeting was important. “This affects all of us – if it doesn’t affect you now, it will affect your children and your grandchildren,” she said.

She went through the proposals for the site – which had its hospital beds removed in 2012 and now operates some services such as physiotherapy and a diabetic eye clinic.

The preferred option would see the hospital become an environmentally-friendly hub for two GP surgeries – as well as services including district nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and an integrated care home.

Hospital site in Royston.

Hospital site in Royston. - Credit: Archant

“There would be enough space to make it future-proof – to cater for Royston’s predicted 20 per cent population rise to around 26,000 by 2030,” she said.

And it was suggested that improved services would help ease pressure on the already-squeezed Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

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The problem with the preferred option is cost, as £262,000 would be needed every year to fund the rent difference of the site – owned by NHS property services – and because of this the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clincial Commisioning Group has previously turned it down.

The other option discussed would see the existing health centre in Melbourn Street expanded upwards for more services. It was noted that ultimately the site would be limited by land ownership boundaries and sustainability of the site working for years to come couldn’t be guaranteed.

Other questions raised on the night included how accessible the hospital site would be – due to its hill location. The response was: “It isn’t perfect, but the best we have.”

When asked what GP practices would be affected if the hospital site was chosen, the audience would told Roysia would continue to serve the north of the town and it would be the existing health centre and Barley Practice that are affected.

There were also queries on the practicalities of having the catchment area spanning two counties as Royston has to look to Cambridge for hospital services and North Herts for care homes – something which Sir Oliver Heald said was a problem that has always blighted the hospital.

Councillor Fiona Hill addressed concerns that the hospital would be stretched by the reopening of Bassingbourn Barracks to military personnel – that the forces have their own facilities.

And regarding care for younger people whose lives will tragically be cut short, Sir Oliver said that Herts-based Garden House Hospice Care already deals with those matters and should continue to be supported in that.

The main feeling on the night was that the hospital, as one audience member put it, was ‘a jewel in Royston’s crown’ and its future should be secured. When the audience was asked to vote on which plan they preferred, all but two chose the hospital site.

Maggie urged the community to sign the petition, which will be presented to health secretary Jeremy Hunt. Sir Oliver added: “We have been working hard on this for a long time and I will be pushing the petition.”

See roystoncommunityhealth.org.uk for more information or to print the petition – RCH will be at Royston Market on Saturday between 9am and 1pm to collect petitions.

Go to www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/HM3T6ZL for the online version.

Maggie said they don’t know when the governing body will put the hospital on the agenda so they don’t have an end date for petitions as of yet.

Email info@roystoncommunityhealth.org.uk to get in touch with the group and for updates see Royston Community Health’s Facebook page.