Over the course of this Conservative government, a minimum £22billion will be shaved off the NHS budget and the consequences of this dearth of finances is being passed on to local NHS services. The biggest consequence of this for Belper is the decision of the NHS Southern Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to close and sell Babington Hospital. Due to recent changes in the law, the money from this sale no longer goes back into the NHS but instead goes directly into the Treasury.
There is currently a campaign to keep Babington Hospital open; you can sign the petition on 38 Degrees. Mary Dwyer, who started the petition and contacted us included the following plea, “Keep Babington Hospital open and providing all the health care facilities it currently provides until any alternative provision is in place, which would be as easily accessible and as good, if not better, than the current service.”
Back when the closure was initially proposed, the CCG stated that Belper needs all the services that the hospital provides and that if it closes they are looking to re-provide those services elsewhere within current local services. This will probably involve putting the pressure onto local GP surgeries, who are already overstretched. Babington Hospital has, since the inception of the NHS in 1948, primarily provided for the elderly and the CCG insists that the elderly would rather be cared for in their own homes. The services at Babington are meant to bridge the gap between home and hospital to help the elderly stay living in their own homes as opposed to going into full-time care. The closure could easily lead to more elderly Belper residents having to move into care homes in order to receive adequate care.
The hospital also provides support for respiratory illnesses, physical rehabilitation, therapy and blood tests (which would otherwise require a trip to Derby and a much longer wait in much more uncomfortable conditions).
Historically Babington is a crucial part of Belper history, beginning life as a workhouse housing 158 inmates including homeless youth who were taught tailoring and shoemaking and vagrant cells where hard labour was the cost of the shelter. The vagrant cells ceased to be used around 1930 when control of the building passed to Derbyshire County Council and, during extensive remodelling, became the Babington House Public Assistance Institution. The cells were demolished in 1954 after the building had already been repurposed as emergency medical care during the war and was then converted into an NHS hospital with facilities to care for 155 geriatric and 16 maternity patients. The hospital has been added to over the years, most recently in 2001 with the addition of a dining hall.
Despite its past as a beacon of intolerance of poverty, it is a beautiful building which has redeemed itself with the care and birth of many current Belper residents and the care of our elderly, it has checked our blood and maintains excellent ratings on all aspects of staffing and care.
All of these services would be moved, possibly onto existing staff in other facilities as there have been no assurances from the CCG that job losses will be avoided.
Belper can be a difficult town to get out of when one is ill, infirm, elderly and reliant on public transport. It takes two buses to get to the hospital in Derby, adding a soon increasing cost to anyone who needs to watch their finances carefully. With recent cuts to public coffers, these bus services will also be less frequent, with some areas futher out from the town having their buses cut almost entirely. Getting to Derby or waiting for a nurse to visit once a day is not as simple a measure for the “service users” as it might look on paper.
If you are concerned about the loss of these services and the sale of the building (which has, for all intents and purposes, been stolen from the town by the government) then please support Belper’s Keep Our NHS Public and Save Babington Hospital campaigns and sign the petition against closure. You’ll need it one day; do you want to do without it for the sake of the sale price, which will never be touched by Belper? Do you want this building (only 5 parts of which are listed and protected) in the hands of private developers?