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Vital talks on St Michael's Hospital

PUBLISHED: 13:45 09 January 2008 | UPDATED: 12:35 20 May 2010

HOSPITAL campaigners are to meet health chiefs for “nitty gritty” talks over the future of services at Aylsham.

It comes as historic St Michael's hospital faces a closure threat, despite strident calls by local folk to retain the unit.

HOSPITAL campaigners are to meet health chiefs for “nitty gritty” talks over the future of services at Aylsham.

It comes as historic St Michael's hospital faces a closure threat, despite strident calls by local folk to retain the unit.

Preparatory work started this week on re-developing some of the site for a mixture of housing, community and care facilities, with the possibility of putting some of the hospital's clinics and beds on the campus.

But campaigners are still keen to see the hospital saved, to provide a longer-term prospect of care, with the backing of local GPs who have aired concerns about the replacement plan, because there were too few community beds and carers.

Now those, and other, issues will be aired at a meeting between a local working party and the Norfolk Primary Care Trust later this month, following a county health watchdog committee asking the two sides to try to agree a way forward.

Town council chairman Liz Jones: “It is a major step forward. We are now getting down to the real nitty gritty of finding a solution.”

The local group will meet the PCT on January 21, and hoped to have some progress before the next health and overview meeting in March.

It was important to bring some certainty to the situation for the sake of local people and staff affected by the closure plans, she said.

There were still hopes of retaining part of the hospital, rather than having beds and services in other locations, because it was a better guarantee they would not be withdrawn.

Developers Hopkins Homes begin upgrading the access road on Monday ahead of building 200 homes, about 40pc of them affordable on the site, including apartments in the old “twin tower” hospital block.

There will also be housing with care, a community centre and a 70-bed nursing home, plus a plot set aside for a health centre in case it is needed later, in joint venture the Aylsham Care Trust (ACT).

Negotiations, which were “promising”, were under way about what health services and beds could be included in what would be more up-to-date buildings than the current hospital, said ACT trustee Peter Lewis.

And ACT chairman Jenny Manser said : “We are getting to a point where there is a real opportunity to provide services on this site.”

The local debate now centres on what and where they are, and the scale - with concerns that double the suggested five beds are needed to cope with local demand.

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