North Walsham residents have their say on health

Mary HamiltonHealth bosses have turned to townspeople to help improve their hospital.Residents in North Walsham and the surrounding villages were interviewed about their views on proposed changes to the health service.Mary Hamilton

Health bosses have turned to townspeople to help improve their hospital.

Residents in North Walsham and the surrounding villages were interviewed about their views on proposed changes to the health service.

A new health campus in the town was approved by NHS Norfolk in July last year to replace the aging North Walsham cottage hospital. The campus will integrate a range of existing and new services, including a 24-bed inpatient unit.

This is the latest development in the saga of the hospital, which was proposed for closure as part of a shake-up of Norfolk's health services in 2007. After angry meetings, street protests and consultations, the plans were dropped and new proposals which retain local hospital beds were put in place.

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Chairman of the hospital's League of Friends Brian Elliott said: 'The idea is to make sure everybody is involved and we get as many opinions as possible. We've only got provisional results at the moment but it seems everyone wants the same services we've got now plus a little bit extra, so they don't have to travel to Norwich or Cromer so often. People want diagnostic units, out of hours services and consultant clinics, and palliative care is very important.

'After hearing about the colleges being delayed, some of us are a little bit scared that there won't be the money when the time comes but we have been assured that the money is there. I am looking forward to seeing the hospital built and I hope it will be in the next two years.'

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The survey was conducted over two weeks by Ipsos MORI, an independent research organisation, who contacted a representative sample of 500 people and interviewed them over the phone. The results will be collated in a report which will go before the NHS Norfolk Board in May.

Wendy Hardicker, assistant director for out of hospital care for NHS Norfolk, emphasised that the survey helped the Trust gain a clearer understanding of patient needs to shape the future of heath services in the area.

'Using local knowledge will enable us to learn more about existing services, how accessible they are, and any challenges that they currently face,' she added.

Mary Granville-White, chairman of the Older People's Forum for North Norfolk, said: 'Decision-makers need the involvement of older people and their knowledge and experience if they are to build with people's needs in mind and make the best decisions within what will always be a limited resource.'

Initial research was carried out by the League of Friends and by members of the Community Involvement Panel, which comprises representatives from a wide range of interested groups including councils, patients' participation groups, the police and other community groups. The panel will be involved throughout the decision-making process.

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