Hopes rise of extra NHS-funded beds
A CHANGE of heart by health chiefs could see NHS-funded beds in Aylsham almost double at the same time St Michael's Hospital is axed next year.The rethink emerged during an at-times angry public meeting in the town to reveal more detailed plans for the hospital site, including a nursing home where the NHS-commissioned beds would be based, and a �1m health campus.
A CHANGE of heart by health chiefs could see NHS-funded beds in Aylsham almost double at the same time St Michael's Hospital is axed next year.
The rethink emerged during an at-times angry public meeting in the town to reveal more detailed plans for the hospital site, including a nursing home where the NHS-commissioned beds would be based, and a �1m health campus.
After the Aylsham Care Trust (ACT) annual meeting David Stonehouse, director of finance and deputy chief executive for NHS Norfolk, confirmed: "The initial assessment of the beds required for the people of Aylsham was five. However, as we move closer to the opening of the new unit and the closure of St. Michael's, current working suggests that this could be closer to nine."
A six-strong group of St Michael's nursing staff, whose jobs are among those under threat, barracked Mr Stonehouse during the meeting.
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They included nursing auxiliary Janet Wright who said afterwards that she and others were still fighting to keep the community hospital open.
Jenny Manser, chairman of ACT, said the purpose of the meeting had been to put local people's minds at rest by providing, for the first time, concrete information, including a timetable, about the site.
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ACT's founder Rees Coghlan gifted land to the redevelopment project on condition that the charity played a major role in ensuring a strong emphasis on the provision of community facilities.
'It is unfortunate that this amazing development has been caught up in the politics of the hospital closure,' said Mrs Manser.
PROJECTS on the site include:
�The Norfolk NHS health campus hosting a range of services such as specialist neuro-rehabilitation, rehabilitation, speech and language therapies; musculo-skeletal physiotherapy, and podiatry. Chiefs have pledged not to remove current services until alternatives are in place.
�72-bed nursing home. Work is due to begin this summer, once the access road is completed, and the Runwood Homes business should open next spring.
�40 Circle Anglia housing-with-care homes; an 18-month project due to get underway next spring.
�Community centre run by ACT and aimed at all age groups probably due to open towards the end of 2011.
�About 170 homes, including 40 affordable properties, being built by Hopkins Homes.