Community health boost planned for north Norfolk

Ian Clarke A bold vision has been outlined for a new �2.9m community health care complex in north Norfolk.

Ian Clarke

A bold vision has been outlined for a new �2.9m community healthcare complex in north Norfolk.

A care home - including NHS in-patient beds - housing with care and a broad range of new health facilities, from renal dialysis to dentistry, could be created on and around the site of Wells' Community Hospital.

Tomorrow, the Norfolk NHS Norfolk primary care trust board will be asked to support a business case to refurbish the 99-year-old former cottage hospital, work in partnership with the neighbouring Heritage House day centre and construct new buildings.

It would signal a change in fortune for the hospital - and is just five years since the 12 in-patient beds and the majority of services, such as a minor injuries unit, were shut.

Following huge public support - and EDP backing - the hospital reopened in September 2006 under the management of a charitable trust.

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At the moment, the community hospital provides services including ultrasound, paediatric clinic, leg ulcer management, hearing aid service and physiotherapy.

But if the dream of a health complex comes to reality, the spectrum of care would become much greater.

Members will get three options:

Do nothing and continue with the existing services at the hospital;

Retain the existing hospital building and increase capacity;

Explore the �2.9m health complex. If this is agreed, the outline business case could be approved in March and the full business case could be agreed in July.

No details are given about when work could start.

A report to the meeting - which will be presented by assistant director PBC development Robert Jones, says: "The proposed complex and develop-ment of services will ensure that local people will have access to a wider range of flexible services and facilities in their own locality that are not only of the highest quality but that are also delivered using a personalised approach and will assist with the reduction in recognised health inequalities."

An important part of the case being made for the hospital is the need for facilities to help the large proportion of pensioners, holidaymakers and deprived people, which all put a strain on local health services.

In England, there are 19.1pc of men aged over 65 and women over 60. In north Norfolk, the figure is 32.1pc and for the catchment area of the hospital it is 35.8pc. In some council wards it is as high as 41pc.

Tomorrow's meeting will be told that negotiations are ongoing with owners of surrounding land which would be needed for the new buildings, including the Holkham Estate. The complex would be similar to a scheme being developed in Aylsham, including a care home, housing-with-care scheme, a community centre and health centre.

The board will tomorrow also discuss the future of the North Walsham Memorial Cottage Hospital. The future use of the hospital has been up in the air for months and townsfolk are becoming impatient to find out what will happen next.