Hospital plans win public backing

Plans to redevelop North Walsham's War Memorial Cottage Hospital have been welcomed by most visitors to a touring exhibition about the scheme, according to organisers.

NHS Norfolk staged five displays over a week in parts of the north Norfolk area served by the hospital, finishing with a day-long exhibition in North Walsham on Monday, which had attracted over 50 members of the public by lunchtime.

On show were boards detailing �5.5m plans for a new 24-bedded unit in the current hospital's grounds, linked to Rebecca House, a former dementia unit, which would be refurbished to house out-patient clinics and office space.

Laura McCartney-Gray, engagement manager with NHS Norfolk, said the majority of people had been 'very positive' about the plans and were pleased that the new hospital unit, with eight more beds than the old, is due to open next July. The Rebecca House refurbishment should be complete next April.

They had also been relieved that none of the current out-patient services would be lost and that there was a possibility more could be provided in future, if the government's White Paper was approved, abolishing primary care trusts and giving GPs more buying powers.

Visitors to the exhibitions, which were also held in Bacton, Mundesley, Dilham and Southrepps, were invited to add their comments to a notice board and fill in questionnaires.

Several queried whether there would be enough car-parking spaces, asked for shuttle buses to the Yarmouth Road hospital, and there were also a number calling for a kitchen on site, to provide patients with fresh food.

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Among Monday's visitors were former kitchen staff Linda Read and Frances Cook who were made redundant nearly three years ago when Rebecca House's kitchen was closed and cook-chill meals brought in from elsewhere.

'Just to get a hospital is nice but it would be good if there was also a kitchen,' said Mrs Cook. 'Sick people need fresh, nutritious food, suited to their diet that they can get at short notice.'

Brian Elliott, chairman of the community involvement panel which has been meeting regularly with NHS Norfolk to discuss the plans, said he had been able to tell exhibition visitors that the scheme would definitely go ahead, built by the private-public partnership body Norlife and leased to the NHS.

Mr Elliott said the old hospital's first world war memorial would be an important part of the new scheme.

Views gathered at the exhibitions would be compiled into a report next month for consideration by the hospital project team, said Ms McCartney-Gray.

Anyone who would like their comments included can ring 01603 257091 for a booklet and questionnaire, or visit