Proposals to sell NHS sites as major changes to Dorset NHS revealed

MASSIVE changes are being planned for hospital and care services across Dorset – which may see some local sites, including in Weymouth, sold off.

What line would your Devon County Council candidates make of this? Selling the family silver? NHS safe in their hands? – Owl

Trevor Bevins 

Ultimately it may lead to investment of between £370m and £500m in services in the county up to 2030 through the Government’s Health Infrastructure Plan.

Dorset councillors have been told that much of the work is still in the early stages with the proposals including the sale of NHS land in the Weymouth area and in Sherborne –  with redevelopment plans for sites at Forston near Dorchester, Wimborne and Shaftesbury.

The scheme to extend the Dorset County Hospital site is already under way with the building of a new multi-storey car park.

Where land and sites are sold the NHS locally says it is determined that, where possible, it would be used for key worker housing.

The model for strategic redevelopment for county health services is based on community hubs which bring local services together on one site to reduce the need for people to travel.

Portland councillor Paul Kimber was told that no new building was currently planned for the island under the longer-term proposals although there would be an investment in reducing a patient backlog and, outside of the scope of the strategic programme, other local initiatives.

He was told in response to a question about Portland services that there would be a ‘consolidation’ of local services in Weymouth, possibly based on a new hospital building, with the ultimate likely disposal of two Weymouth NHS sites for housing. A figure for £30m has been presented for the Weymouth element alone.

Chris Lawrence from the Dorset healthcare trust admitted that the plan was ‘Weymouth biased’ but said there was also a commitment to having investment on Portland with a focus on a new scheme based centred around primary care.

Cllr Dr Jon Orrell said Weymouth people might be concerned that the town now seemed likely to go from four hospitals it once had with beds to just one, having already seen previous closures and site sales result in no apparent investment south of the Ridgeway.

He said that if the town was to lose further public land through NHS sales then there should be a 100 per cent commitment to key worker housing on those sites, which fellow Weymouth councillor Gill Taylor suggested should also be extended to social care workers.

Concern about the wider proposals came from Sherborne councillors Jon Andrews and Robin Legg who both said their town already relied on Yeovil Hospital for many services, although there are proposals for Yeovil to merge some services with the hospital in Taunton, reducing what might be available on the south Somerset site.

Cllr Andrews said if that happened many people would find it difficult to get to Dorchester for hospital treatment. He also questioned a proposal which said that Yeatman Hospital land might be sold for housing, although it was later admitted that the suggestion might be a mistake.

Cllr Legg said he had also been surprised to see a proposal to reconfigure the site and sell some of it for housing – an idea, which he said, the NHS seemed to have developed in a vacuum without talking to anyone.

He said if there were plans for a £18 million redevelopment at the Yeatman it might be better to consider whether the 150-year old building and its cramped site was worth continuing to invest in, or to move to a new site elsewhere in the town, possible on land being proposed for development by the Digby estate.

Members of the Dorset Council’s people and health scrutiny committee were told that the strategic plans were still in the early stages and would depend on winning Government funding and a detailed business case for each site then being signed off. It was at the next stage that wider consultations would be held once the details were fleshed out.