Belper’s Babington Hospital may face closure as it joins other services in a local review, a healthcare leader has warned.
GP Doctor Ian Lawrence, chair for Amber Valley and the South Dales said: “The hospital is big and old and because of that it is getting more and more difficult to convert that building to meet modern needs and safety standards.
“It’s a possibility but it is by no means decided or set and what we want to do is put the facts in front of everyone and have an open and honest debate about what it is we want for the future, what we have now and how we might best move from here to there.”
Chief officer of NHS Southern Derbyshire clinical commissioning group, Andy Layzell, confirmed that closure of Babington is a possibility after the review takes place into the winter months and is published early next year.
But he stressed that all services would still be provided by clinical staff elsewhere, meaning that job cuts would be unlikely.
He said: “We need all those services that the hospital provides in Belper and if it closes we are looking to re-provide those services elsewhere.”
But he was unable to confirm if this might mean any job cuts locally as some NHS services may be merged into preexisting facilities.
He added: “You’re never able to say if there will be any staff cuts, but that’s not what we’re trying to do.”
And the review comes amid a shift in the demands of local care, he added.
“The context of this is partly around work we’ve done with patients that tells us what they really want, particularly for elderly people and those with multiple health care conditions. They want to be supported at their home and to be independent, and only come to hospital if they really need to.”
In fact the CCG is investing an extra £500,000 in community services per year from now on.
Mr Layzell added: “There is enormous pressure on the NHS at the moment, and a national shortage of GPs so what we’ve been trying to do is develop community services which sit between GPs and hospitals. Belper is at the forefront of our work at the moment - to look at general practice itself and whether there is more surgeries can do between them.”
Keith Venables of Belper’s Keep our NHS Public campaign, said he met with officials recently is remains unconvinced that the same level of resources and facilities will be maintain locally.
The retired child psychologist, 66, added: “We generally feel we’re not against change, that’s not where any of us stand, but we are concerned that if things do change, we wouldn’t want to lose any of the resources available to local people.
“Although we feel it can be better for people to be looked after at home, we wouldn’t want anything less than the best resources. There is always going to have to be a hospital bed available, so for resources to go to the home, that’s great, but there also needs to be a hospital facility to cater to that need.”
Some £22 billion of NHS resources will be shaved off the budget over the next five years, he added, to be made in efficiency savings.
“But smarter working can’t account for that giant gap in funding – there has got to a loss of services somewhere.”
And the main problem the group is worried about is that any savings made by selling Babington won’t go back into the service.
Keith added: “After Heanor hospital was closed the law was changed – the value of the sale doesn’t go into the local NHS anymore it goes back to the treasury.
“This is a measure to pump the NHS for a bit of capital back into government.”