THE NHS has performed a dramatic U-turn on a controversial plan to auction off a historic hospital site.
People were outraged when NHS Property Services announced it was auctioning off Emsworth’s Victoria Cottage Hospital at the end of the month.
At 11am yesterday, NHS Property Services, which deals with NHS assets, confirmed to it intended to auction the site later this month, with any proceeds to be re-invested in the NHS.
But at 2pm another statement said the hospital had now been taken off the auction list as more clarification was needed on its potential future use.
The hospital closed last year, but there was real hope the site would become the new home for Emsworth Surgery, with lengthy negotiations over the past year.
Doctors at Emsworth Surgery received the first statement that the 120-year-old building would be auctioned off and sent out a reply yesterday speaking of their ‘bitter disappointment’.
The current surgery in North Street is cramped and no longer fit-for-purpose.
But were relieved after the U-turn.
Jim Strudwick, chairman of Emsworth Surgery Patient Participation Group, said: ‘I’m delighted.
‘In a place like Emsworth which is a growing town with lots of older people, they need health facilities near the centre of the town.’
Stephanie Elsy, chairwoman of Emsworth Forum, and Jo Dyer, chairwoman of Emsworth Residents’ Association, both wrote to MP David Willetts, expressing dismay about the auction.
Ms Elsy said: ‘Presumably somebody at a senior level has realised more discussion needs to take place.
‘We need to work together to make this happen.’
She added: ‘We’re quite motivated to take the bull by the horns and get people talking to each other.
‘I’m delighted it’s being withdrawn from the auction list.
‘We have raised the flag that people care about the site and want to ensure we have adequate provision going forward.’
Dr Abu Chinwala, on behalf of the Partners of Emsworth Surgery, said: ‘The current surgery was designed to look after no more than 2,000 patients and we look after over 13,000 patients with our list size rising due to new local developments.
‘The building is too small and does not meet modern day general practice needs.’
A public meeting has been called for 7pm on Thursday at the Emsworth Surgery to thrash out a way forward.
A spokeswoman from NHS Property Services said the business plan submitted by the doctors to build a new surgery was now being considered by NHS England, which commissions services.
She added: ‘The property has been declared surplus to requirement and vacant and the property has also been registered on the governments surplus property register EPIMs.
‘However following recent enquiries from another NHS body, NHS Property Services has withdrawn the property from auction pending clarification on potential future use.’