HOUSE OF COMMONS DEBATE ON CLEVEDON COMMUNITY HOSPITAL
This evening, Dr Liam Fox MP will lead a debate in the House of Commons on the future of Clevedon Cottage Hospital.
There has been a Cottage Hospital in Clevedon since 1874 and it has a fine tradition of serving more than 100,000 people living in Clevedon and the surrounding area. The hospital has 18 in-patient beds, used primarily for respite and convalescence, along with limited facilities for X-ray, Physiotherapy, Podiatry, Musco-Skeletal and Minor Injuries. It also hosts a range of out-patient clinics too. But the building is now showing its age and there is growing concern that it no longer meets the high standards expected in the NHS.
Four years ago, plans were developed for the building of a new Community Hospital in Clevedon. After a lengthy consultation, bidding and planning process, these plans were approved by the North Somerset Primary Care Trust in March 2012 and recommended to the South of England Strategic Health Authority for endorsement. These final plans had been verified as affordable within current budgets by external auditors PwC and the preferred bidder had amended the building’s plans to ensure that the PFI rental agreement was within the limits set by the trust. But just four months later, the North Somerset PCT performed a deft U-Turn and claimed that the plans were no longer affordable “given the economic circumstances”.
Dr Fox and the Cottage Hospital’s League of Friends have been appealing to the local health authorities for clarification on why the decision was reversed ever since but no clear answers have been forthcoming. Further research into the North Somerset Trust’s finances suggests that they under-spent in both 2010/11 and 2011/12 despite (in 2011/12) being the lowest funded PCT per capita in the country. Transfers were also made from the North Somerset PCT to the South Gloucestershire PCT of £1.8m last year and there are plans to do the same this year too. Further evidence suggests that financial short-falls at the General Hospital in Weston-Super-Mare are also forcing a change in priorities to the detriment of capital projects elsewhere in North Somerset.
Dr Fox commented “It appears that we are losing out not on grounds of affordability but because priorities lie elsewhere. If others cannot function competently, that should be there problem not ours.”
People living in Clevedon and the surrounding area have also been angered by the amount of money that has been wasted if the project does not now go ahead. £1.5m has been spent on the planning process and consultation with a further £1.5m spent on land at Millcross for the new hospital.
Dr Fox, however, is most keen to secure assurances that the change of heart over the new Community Hospital is not indicative of any change in strategy that would see services removed from Clevedon altogether.
He will say in his speech this evening, “Let me be clear, my constituents are not wedded to any particular piece of ground; simply the maintenance of community facilities. This is where we need re-assurance from the Minister. We have watched plans for the proposed Portishead Community Hospital disappear. We watched Orchard View, with its exceptional care facilities, disappear. We will not tolerate community facilities in Clevedon disappearing too.”
“If the Milcross site cannot be built upon and is subsequently sold, then we must have assurances that the monies raised from the sale will come back into our health authority so they can be reinvested in the Clevedon Cottage Hospital on its current site.”
“There has been a managerial shambles and so it is the management that should pay the price not the people of Clevedon and the surrounding area. Responsibility, accountability and transparency are all we seek. Surely this is not too much to ask?”