A community health and wellbeing hub similar to Budleigh Salterton’s successful service is in the pipeline for Ottery St Mary.
The announcement comes after East Devon’s MP Sir Hugo Swire yesterday received formal confirmation from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care that Ottery St Mary Hospital will not close.
Now the hospital is set to transition towards becoming a health and wellbeing hub, offering mental health and dementia support, gym classes, and a place for the community to access practical help and a range of services and support.
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who visited Budleigh’s hub and Ottery hospital last year, said he was a ‘keen supporter’ of the health and wellbeing hub model, and how it can adapt to modern care needs.
He personally thanked Sir Hugo for ‘tirelessly’ championing the benefits of local healthcare provision in Ottery St Mary.
East Devon News understands the Budleigh Hub – which moved into Budleigh’s community hospital in 2017 – has given advice and direction over the last year to help bring a similar service to Ottery.
It is understood Ottery’s community service would be on a smaller scale and based on the assessed needs of the town.
Leigh Edwards, Ottery St Mary Health and Care Forum deputy chair, said in a statement: “We have striven to establish a health and wellbeing hub for Ottery, along similar lines to the Budleigh Salterton Hub, by utilising the huge empty space.
“We have sought the help of anyone who was in a position to help or to influence.
“Sir Hugo Swire has steadfastly supported the forum’s efforts to secure the future of our community hospital as a health and wellbeing hub in numerous ways.
“This includes bringing Matt Hancock to the region to visit the Budleigh Hub and Ottery St Mary Hospital, plus seeking recent assurances from him and his ministers in the House of Commons, and taking part in our regular meetings.
“This letter from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, prompted by Sir Hugo, further demonstrates his commitment to proactively assist us in saving our magnificent hospital for the benefit of the people of Ottery St Mary and district.”
The Ottery St Mary Health and Care Forum said it had ‘worked hard’ for several years to save the community hospital.
It hopes to keep the existing Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (RD&E) services, plus the work of the Rowan and Linden centre – a day service for people living with memory loss and dementia, depression and anxiety – while increasing its range of health and care services.
The forum said it had attended regular meetings with RD&E senior management, the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), GPs at the Ottery’s Coleridge Medical Practice and Sir Hugo.
Sir Hugo said: “It is quite clear from this that Ottery St Mary Hospital has a future.
“I am delighted that I have managed to secure this after several months of lobbying the Department for Health and Social Care.
“I hope that Claire Wright will not seek to stir up more anxiety about its future.
“For too long, the future of the hospital has been the subject of false rumours. I therefore hope that local constituents and the press alike will realise this is not the hot political news it is often made out to be.
He added: “As Ottery St Mary Hospital transitions towards a health and wellbeing hub, we will have more services – mental health, dementia support, gym classes – to better serve the needs of local people.”
Independent parliamentary candidate Claire Wright, county councillor for the Otter Valley ward, said it was not within Mr Hancock’s power to determine Ottery hospital’s fate now a general election had been called.
She said: “This sounds like electioneering and we should wait and see what happens rather than taking a retiring Tory MP at face value.”
Cllr Wright added: “The reality is that I have been trying for years to establish that NHS Property Services – a company set up by his government which is outrageously charging massive rents to local NHS hospitals that previously belonged to the NHS – is going to retain the building, after the beds were sadly closed a few years ago.
“It’s not just Ottery Hospital that’s at risk but all those owned by NHS Property Services locally.
“Local NHS managers have always been tight-lipped about their futures.
“I would be delighted if Ottery Hospital is indeed safe in the future but fighting to keep services in our communities is not ‘spreading anxiety’ it is vital grass roots campaigning.
“But with a general election on 12 December it is hardly within Mr Hancock’s gift to determine its fate.
“As a member of Ottery Town Council’s committee, which will meet soon to work on how we retain the hospital, I don’t see a case for abandoning this work.”