Fears part of an unused hospital wing in East Devon will be sold or demolished in a bid to save NHS cash has prompted thousands of residents to lobby the Government.
A petition to save an unused wing of Seaton Community Hospital signed by over 9,000 people has been presented in Parliament, writes local democracy reporter Will Goddard.
It comes amid fears the wing could be sold or demolished, as NHS Devon looks to hand it back to its owner NHS Property Services to save money.
NHS Devon is currently in special measures because of its financial deficit. It pays around £280,000 per year in rent and other costs for the redundant wing.
Its construction was funded by the community, and local groups want to open a health hub there that would include services to support people with dementia.
Presenting the petition, Lib Dem MP for Tiverton and Honiton Richard Foord said: “The petition has been signed by over 9,000 of my constituents, because they object to the fact that the hospital, which was funded by generous local donations, is being ripped away from them, and in part potentially sold off by NHS Property Services, and disposed of for potential sale for housing.
“The petitioners… request that the House of Commons urge the government to take into account the concerns of petitioners and take action to return the facility to the local community, so it can be repurposed to provide better care for those living in the area.”
An NHS Devon spokesperson said: “We are in active discussions with local elected representatives along with NHS and community partners to explore options for the future of the former ward wing.
“After the beds were removed at Seaton in 2017 following full public consultation, new ways of looking after people in the local community – often in their own home – were brought in and have been very successful.
“Since then, the ward has sat empty and the vacant space currently costs the NHS in Devon about £280,000 a year in rent and other charges – poor use of taxpayers’ money at a time when we are forecasting another budget deficit of more than £40 million this year.”
Campaigners also made another attempt in November to save the wing by applying for the hospital to be listed as an ‘asset of community value’ by East Devon District Council.
It would mean if the owner wanted to sell it, community groups could pause the sale for six months to try to buy it.