New twist in fate of North Walsham hospital

Richard BatsonA new twist in the future of North Walsham Hospital - with a bid to combine social and health care services - is set to be explored by officials.Locals were already aware of health plans to refurbish an empty building on the cottage hospital site, Rebecca House, for out-patient services and providing 24 beds for intermediate care, such as rehabilitation.Richard Batson

A new twist in the future of North Walsham Hospital - with a bid to combine social and health care services - is set to be explored by officials.

Locals were already aware of health plans to refurbish an empty building on the cottage hospital site, Rebecca House, for out-patient services and providing 24 beds for intermediate care, such as rehabilitation.

But today NHS Norfolk's board will be asked to approve talks with social services to incorporate social care needs.

The late move to liaise comes just days after an older people's forum in the town called for more joined-up thinking between care agencies.


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When asked why it had not happened before, NHS Norfolk's interim director of innovation Ian Ayres, said: "That's a fair question. We have increasingly been looking at health and social care for years, but it is only now at North Walsham that the two authorities have reached the same point."

Social services were looking at the next door Rose Meadow home, and there was scope to share buildings and services to ensure more money was spent on care.

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A "rapid" joint commissioning exercise will be undertaken over the next two or three months with the aim of bringing a costed proposal, including the provision of a NHS 24 bed community hospital unit, to the board of NHS Norfolk next March.

Mr Ayres stressed: "We remain committed to provided NHS beds on that site.

"It is clear, however, that there may be advantages to the people of North Walsham and the surrounding area if we work with our partners at Norfolk County Council to ensure a 'joined-up' approach to care on this site."

MP Norman Lamb was unhappy about the late inclusion of the new plans, saying there seemed to be "chaos and confusion" which "does not engender confidence among local people."

Brian Elliott, chairman of the hospital's league of friends, said that whatever happened, the town had been promised the retention of a hospital and wanted just that - rather than a care home.

"We want a dedicated hospital and would be dead against anything else."

NHS Norfolk said it had been working with community partners to decide what needs to be provided on-site, because some of the buildings are not suitable for future healthcare provision and the population is changing - increasing and getting older.

A project group which has already been established to find a solution for the site and a community involvement panel - including representatives of the hospital friends, town and district councils, patient groups and older people's forum - would remain included in any new study.

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