HEALTH chiefs have played down fears that Ashfield Health Village could be closing - despite the loss of the two remaining wards.
The Mansfield and Ashfield NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) confirmed that the stroke rehabilitation ward and the Chatsworth ward are to be moved to Mansfield Community Hospital in the spring, which follows the decision in December to uproot the two dementia wards.
The latest decisions were revealed during a public meeting on Wednesday at Kirkby’s Ashfield Health Village, and sparked concern amongst some of the 30-strong attendees that it could spell the end of the health facility.
But this was strenuously denied by a six-strong panel of leading doctors and clinicians, who have promised that more than £1.6 million is to be pumped into the centre.
This includes a £490,000 one-stop centre for elderly people, £531,000 invested in intermediate dementia care, £54,000 to be spent on memory clinics, a £32,000 investment in a voluntary community support service for dementia carers and patients, £100,000 being spent on increased breaks for carers and a further £404,000 for support to first-time young mums.
The sweeping changes are part of a plan to tackle the ‘ticking timebomb’ of an ageing population, and elderly people would benefit with the wards being relocated to specialist centres, rather than fragmented services offered across different hospitals of the region.
Amanda Sullivan, chief officer for Mansfield and Ashfield NHS CCG said despite the removal of the wards, there was an ‘absolute commitment to invest’ and the money was ready to be spent.
She said: “We do not have any plans to close the facility, but to maximise it as best as we can.
“We need to think about the growing number of elderly people, and we know that our services are not fully geared up for that at the moment.
“(By moving the remaining wards) we are clinically going to be better and we can use this facility here to benefit more people.
“It’s not our intention to run this place into the ground.
“Moving forward with these plans is the best way to protect this asset.”
Panel member and consultant stroke physician, Dr Martin Cooper added: “The overwhelming drive for relocation is one of care that we can provide. I would argue that the move makes it far more accessible to local people. This gives all patients access to a service that can’t be accessed here (at Ashfield Health Village.)
But the plans were met with reservation by some who attended the two-hour presentation and debate, including secretary of the Ashfield Labour Party, Jim Aspinall who said there was justified suspicion, given that the health village’s walk-in centre was closed in September 2011 despite more than 3,000 signatures on a petition to keep it open.
He said: “My concern is that two years ago we fought against the loss of the walk-in centre, in two years’ time will we have a fight about the existence of the hospital.
“We could be wasting our time in fighting to keep the hospital open, judging by what has happened so far.”
Meanwhile, Ashfield MP Gloria De Piero reacted by saying it was a ‘blow’ to the area.
She said: “We’ve already lost the two wards that deal with dementia so to lose the remaining two wards is a huge blow.
“Anyone whose loved one suffers with dementia with challenging behaviour from Ashfield now has to make around a 34-mile round trip to visit them in Bulwell. “The change hit those who don’t have a car particularly hard and involves at least one bus journey taking over an hour there and over an hour back and one lady from Stanton Hill has already told me it’s a nightmare to get to using public transport and predicted it would have a devastating impact.
“Even though the final two wards that are being moved will still be relatively close to home I’m concerned about the added cost that friends and family, who through no fault of their own will have to face up to when they visit loved one because of parking charges that are in place at King’s Mill Hospital and Mansfield Community Hospital.
“Now the relocation of the Stroke rehabilitation ward has been given the ahead it will cost friends and relatives who visit a patient at King’s Mill Hospital for over hour or more, three times a week, £9, when parking is currently free at the Health Village.
“The transfer of the Chatsworth ward to Mansfield Community Hospital will also cost friends and relatives who park and visit for the same length of time, three times a week, £7.50. That money all adds up and is bound to have an impact on some people being able to visit friends and relatives. Plenty of people have told me their views but one has really stayed with me.
“One elderly lady wrote in to tell me about the fantastic care she received at the community hospital and told me people in Ashfield know much better than some of the’ know-alls’ about our health care needs. That is why it’s such a shame we’ve now lost all four wards”.