CALLS made to expand a community hospital have been rebuffed in a ‘devastating’ blow for healthcare, according to a council leader.
Fareham Borough Council’s leader Sean Woodward said the authority wanted overnight beds added and a maternity unit, elderly ward and minor injuries unit brought in to Fareham Community Hospital.
He said the expansion to the hospital in Sarisbury, which currently does not have overnight patients, would alleviate pressure on health services, including QA hospital, which will be exacerbated by the 6,000-home town Welborne, north of Fareham, due to start next year.
However, the Fareham & Gosport Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which pays for health services, said there are ‘no plans’ to expand the site.
Cllr Woodward said: ‘It is devastating for healthcare in Fareham and it is a waste of land.
‘It is a very expensive unit given the usage it is getting.
‘It needs to expand considerably as at the moment it is just half a hospital.’
Dr Paul Howden, a GP and clinical lead on planned care and long-term conditions for Fareham & Gosport CCG, said the NHS has a ‘clear and long-term, commitment’ to increase the range of services available at the hospital, but there were no plans for inpatient beds.
He said: ‘We know that people in Fareham want NHS services to be available as close to their home as is possible, and so we are always looking to bring new services into the town’s hospital.
‘In the first half of this year the NHS has supported the Alzheimer’s Society to start a new weekly dementia advice service there, and brought in a new service to support carers, and other developments are expected very soon.
‘The effort to maximise the use of the hospital goes on, and it is a central part of our plans to move more NHS care into communities.
‘However, when we are planning the right healthcare for our CCG area we have to balance the desire to deliver more NHS services locally, against the overriding need to ensure that those services are both safe and sustainable.
‘We have to continually weigh up how to prioritise our spending – we cannot fund everything and that means difficult choices have to be made.
‘Fareham Community Hospital remains a crucial site for us, and although there are currently no plans to open a walk-in centre, or for the unit to have inpatient bed capacity, we will keep trying to accelerate our efforts to attract new services into the town.’
Fareham Community Hospital is currently used in the daytime for community care and other services such as physiotherapy, mental health outpatients and occupational therapy.
The building, which opened in May 2010, is 2,700sq ft in size.
However, even if the hospital was to expand, not everybody thinks the plan would go far enough to cope with the growth of the population.
Independent councillor Nick Gregory, who was against allowing Welborne to proceed, said: ‘It is not enough. One of the biggest issues already is the accessibility of Fareham Community Hospital due to the lack of public transport. That is just one area of concern. Welborne will have a phenomenal impact on the local facilities like doctors’ surgeries. I know doctors’ surgeries that are already running at capacity and that is without the extra 6,000 homes being built.
‘QA Hospital is at capacity, too. It is the tip of the iceberg.
‘Yes, the community hospital is under-utilised however even if we could put in extra beds it would not make a vast amount of difference due to Fareham’s predicted population growth.’