The fate of a historic Derbyshire hospital will be officially sealed this week, with a decision set to be made to close the site and move to new multi-million building.
After 70 years of running health services, Babington Hospital in Belper will now be sold off, along with Belper Clinic, in favour of moving to the former Thorntons site in Derwent Street, half a mile away.
Both the hospital and clinic will remain in use until construction of the new site is completed.
The move comes despite strong opposition from Belper residents, nearly 6,000 of whom signed a petition to save the hospital site and retain health services there, as well as at the new building.
They feel that the current site in Derby Road is more accessible and should be cherished, saying: “Babington Hospital is an iconic building playing an important part of the identity and history of Belper.”
Back in June Derbyshire Save Our NHS said on Nailed that: “We oppose a reduction or a transfer of services since they reflect the significant cut-backs in funding for the NHS.
“Derbyshire Save Our NHS insists that full and appropriate funding is made available to either continue the Babington facilities as a much respected Community Hospital or that any changes do not break up staff teams or offer fewer or more limited services, while selling off the land to private developers.”
In papers ahead of a meeting of Southern Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group on Friday, June 22, officials say that members of the public, despite presenting strong opposition to the plans, did not present “alternative options”.
The report states: “Approval will be given to Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust to commence formal processes required to build a new health facility on land acquired in Derwent Street, Belper.
“All services currently provided from Babington Hospital and Belper Clinic will be relocated to this new facility on completion, with the exception of nurse-led inpatient beds.
“The CCG, working with colleagues at Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Property Services, will complete a successful transfer of services from Babington Hospital and Belper Clinic at a date to be agreed before decommissioning and closing Babington Hospital and Belper Clinic as an existing healthcare facility in line with the CCG’s previous pledge about the maintenance of services in the area as the new facility is developed.”
The governing board is set to approve an investment of £5.9 million to create the new health facility at the Derwent Street site, which will sit alongside the £18.8 million works for a new library and care home being built by Derbyshire County Council.
Work on the library and care home is now under way.
Originally built in 1838 as a workhouse, the buildings were renamed Babington Hospital in 1948 with the formation of the National Health Service (NHS).
The 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.
It is thought that moving to the new site would save £500,000 a year for the CCG.
In a survey published in May, 52 per cent of residents stated that they were in favour of building a new healthcare facility, but, responding to a separate query, 58 per cent opposed moving health services out of Babington Hospital and selling the site off.
By Eddie Bisknell – Local Democracy Reporter & additional material from Nailed.
Babington Hospital Photo: Emma Clinton