Decision deferred on Aylsham hospital

A decision on the future of St Michael's Hospital, Aylsham, has been deferred once more, with councillors warning they may yet refer closure proposals to health secretary Alan Johnson.

A decision on the future of St Michael's Hospital, Aylsham, has been deferred once more, with councillors warning they may yet refer closure proposals to health secretary Alan Johnson.

Bosses at Norfolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) had planned to shut the community hospital as part of a restructuring programme for intermediate care in the county, but the move was blocked in October by Norfolk's health overview and scrutiny committee, which deferred a decision for four months.

This was to allow the PCT and other interested parties to reach local agreements over intermediate care in the Aylsham area, but yesterday the committee heard those discussions were still taking place.

Mark Taylor, director of provider services at the PCT, admitted: "We're not a lot further with the detail than we were before Christmas. Please don't read that as a lack of interest on behalf of either party to make it work."


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However, he said there was no chance of the hospital closing before alternative care services, including a stroke service, were put in place, which would not be before the end of 2010.

Liz Jones, chairman of Aylsham Town Council and the Aylsham Hospital Working Party, said: "We as a community are not happy our hospital could close. We will be so much happier to know for definite that plans will be there to safeguard it."

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April Pond, Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesman for Broadland and a member of the working party, said she had proposed keeping St Michael's open for five years and review its future after that.

"It has been shown repeatedly there is a need for the hospital. The stubbornness and pig-headedness of the PCT beggars belief," she said.

The committee deferred a decision on the hospital's future until July, telling PCT bosses they needed to provide more information.

Committee chairman Janice Eells said councillors could still refer the closure plans to the health secretary.

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