Public consultation on closure of Babington Hospital sparks criticism

NHS Southern Derbyshire have launched a ten-week public consultation on plans to close Babington Hospital and relocate services to a new site in Derwent Street, Belper.
NHS Southern Derbyshire have launched a ten-week public consultation on plans to close Babington Hospital and relocate services to a new site in Derwent Street, Belper.

Healthcare leaders are asking Belper residents to have their say on plans to move services from Babington Hospital to a new, purpose-built facility.

NHS Southern Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) bosses say they are proposing the move due to growing maintenance issues and limitations at the hospital.

William Jones, left, of Derbyshire Community Health Services, and Dr Paul Wood, of NHS Southern Derbyshire, addressed a meeting of healthcare campaigners earlier this week.

William Jones, left, of Derbyshire Community Health Services, and Dr Paul Wood, of NHS Southern Derbyshire, addressed a meeting of healthcare campaigners earlier this week.

Under the plan, all services would relocate to a Derwent Street site being developed by Derbyshire County Council, except for ‘bedded’ care which would be provided from other residential sites or at home.

CCG chairman Dr Paul Wood said: “A purpose-built facility will maximise our health and care resources so patients get the best support, now and in years to come.

“Babington is a beautiful and iconic building, and is partially listed, but unfortunately it’s not practical to update the ageing, former workhouse and much of it is now empty.”

The plan has been developed with input from Patient Participation Groups at GP clinics, and the CCG will hold a series of public events too.

Campaigners say that the closure of Babington and changes to local services are symptoms of a wider crisis in the NHS which could jeopardise access to high-quality community healthcare.

Campaigners say that the closure of Babington and changes to local services are symptoms of a wider crisis in the NHS which could jeopardise access to high-quality community healthcare.

However, campaign group Save Our NHS has already raised concerns, and put them directly to Dr Wood at a meeting on Monday, January 22 attended by around 70 people.

They have also written to Dr Chris Clayton, of the NHS umbrella group Derbyshire Footprint, to query whether the consultation complies with legal requirements over timing and the provision of alternative options.

A spokesman for the CCG said: “In light of the limitations with the current site, we cannot consult about potentially keeping the building open for services if it is not practically and financially viable.”

The situation is complicated by the fact that Derbyshire Community Health Services Foundation Trust currently rent the hospital from the NHS property arm, Propco.

Campaigners say Propco could receive £7million from selling the site which would not be reinvested locally, although that figure has been disputed. The trust has already purchased the Derwent Street site from the council on the understanding it could be sold back if the move does not go ahead.

Save Our NHS cite other proposed closures in Derbyshire as evidence of wider changes in the region and the NHS as a whole, which could allow put more pressure on major hospitals in Derby and Chesterfield.

Spokesman Keith Venables said: “This is not just a local issue it will have an impact on the whole district, and the removal of full nurse-led health care to Derwent Street will mean that fewer people can be looked after closer to home.

“They will have to travel to Ripley, Ashbourne, and Ilkeston and there is no evidence care at home care is better. It will lead to invisible deaths.”

He added: “The managers of Derbyshire’s Health Plan estimate that it is £280 million in deficit—equal to 535 beds—and haven’t said how they intend to deal with this.”

The CCG spokesman responded: “Any potential impact on wider health and social care services has been carefully considered, and plans are designed to improve the way services work together and the support patients receive. Although nurse-led bedded care wouldn’t be offered from the Derwent Street site, nurse-led care would still be offered to those patients that need it.”

A representative for Joined Up Care Derbyshire said: “The £280million figure gives us an idea of the scale of the financial challenge Derbyshire is facing. To address the financial challenge, all 12 health and care organisations are working together to use our resources in the most efficient and effective way.”

Dr Wood said: “We analysed demand for inpatient services at Babington in 2016/17 and out of 200 admissions it was found just 30 were in need of their 24-hour care nursing bed.

He added: “We want to invest in extra community support and adapt to these needs so people can carry on with their lives with the help they need and we use hospital beds wisely and well for those that will benefit. We’re excited by this opportunity to give patients and staff the chance to have brand new facilities, specifically designed for offering modern health care.”

n The consultation period will run until Friday, March 30. For more details and to give feedback, visit http://bit.ly/2rhyp49.