People in Belper are divided over plans to move health services from the historic Babington Hospital site to a new multi-million-pound centre in the town.
Southern Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) wants to build the new state-of-the-art centre on the former Thorntons site in Derwent Street to improve care and help save up to £500,000 per year.
But a consultation into the plans found that people are divided over the proposals, which would see an end to NHS services at Babington Hospital, built in 1838.
In total 58% of respondents disagreed with the move from Babington Hospital due to fears there would be a reduction in services, a view that there is nothing wrong with the current site and concerns for the future of the building, staffing levels and car parking.
This was despite 52% of people saying they were in favour of building the new healthcare centre.
The figures were revealed in a report to Derbyshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee.
The county council owns the Derwent Street site and has been in talks with the CCG and Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust (DCHSFT) to bring the town’s health services there.
The county council has already been given planning permission to build a new library and a 40-bed residential care home on the site to replace the Ada Belfield residential care home on Field Lane which no longer meets modern standards and requires £850,000 in repairs.
The cost of this scheme, along with the proposed healthcare facility, has risen from £16 million to £18.8 million with the awarding of two building contracts to Robertson Construction Group.
The Department of Health has granted £6 million for the new health centre and it is hoped that the building work will be finished during 2019.
Specialist contractor City Demolition moved on to the site last year to clear the site ahead of the new development.
This new healthcare centre idea was pitched as a result of the facilities at Babington being seen as outdated and “not suitable for modern healthcare delivery” with the listed status of the main hospital building significantly restricting the possibility of changing the layout to cater for more staff and clinical space.
It is thought that it would cost £2.1 million to catch up with the backlog in repairs at the Babington site – this would just be sufficient maintenance to keep the “minimum level of 21st century healthcare”.
If Babington was closed, patients requiring “hospital-based care” would be catered for at Ripley Hospital and St Oswald’s Hospital in Ashbourne in the existing bed capacity at the two sites, say health chiefs.
Earlier this year, Southern Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group wrote in a report: “Following the analysis of the situation at Babington Hospital, we believe that the only viable option available to recommend to the Governing Body is to look to reprovide the services currently available at the site in a new, purpose-built facility, integrated with adult care services provided by Derbyshire County Council.
“Any consultation will naturally raise questions about the disposal and future use of the hospital site, but these are considerations beyond the scope of this consultation.
“NHS Property Services own the Babington Hospital site and would be responsible for the disposal of it should that be the outcome of this consultation and decision-making process.
“Any proposal to dispose of the Babington Hospital site needs to ensure that the NHS isn’t left incurring costs associated with having to retain an unwanted site.
“The subsequent future use of the Babington Hospital site would become the subject of local authority planning guidelines, and local people would be invited to have their say in those processes when the time arises.”
The outcomes of the consultation and the next steps of the project will be discussed by Derbyshire county councillors on the scrutiny committee on Monday, May 21.
The Southern Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s governing board is due to make its final decision on the plans on Saturday, June 23.
By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Reporter