Liberal Democrat MP Richard Foord has rallied the local community in the Axe Valley against plans that could see a whole wing of Seaton Community Hospital sold and demolished.
Speaking at a packed public meeting of more than 200 people at Colyford Memorial Hall, Mr Foord pledged to do all he can to prevent plans that would see the diminution of Seaton hospital.
Due to financial pressures, Devon’s Integrated Care Board (ICB) is looking to transfer a wing of the hospital to NHS Property Services – a Government-owned company that rents out NHS facilities. Seaton Hospital was passed into the hands of NHS Property Services by the Conservative Government in 2016.
Railing against the proposals, Tiverton & Honiton MP Richard Foord - who is the Parliamentary representative for Seaton and the surrounding communities - called for NHS Property Services to change the way it rents properties, to allow local community groups to use the space instead.
Under the current arrangement, rent and service charges for the space amount to £300,000 per year, due to it being classed as ‘clinical’ space. However, the wing in question has been largely unused since 2017, when a decision was made to remove beds from the hospital.
This week, Richard Foord helped bring NHS Devon, NHS Property Services, Seaton Hospital League of Friends and others around the table to discuss potential ideas that would see the space made available to charitable and community-based organisations.
Addressing the crowd, the MP also called for the community to get involved in the fight and help oppose these “damaging” proposals.
Commenting after the meeting, Richard Foord said:
“The future of Seaton Community Hospital is one which concerns everyone living in and around the Axe Valley. Today’s packed public meeting, attended by hundreds of people, clearly demonstrates the strength of feeling locally.
“The hospital belongs to the community. Members of the community and volunteer groups raised millions to help fund construction and equipment – including the very ward that is now threatened with demolition. We cannot allow it to be taken away from those who worked so hard to build it.
“NHS Property Services needs to review the way they rent out facilities such as this. Seeking to charge local charities and community groups a market rate that has been pitched at the upper-end clinical rate is short-sighted and wrong.
“I have met recently with NHS Devon, NHS Property Services, and the Seaton Hospital League of Friends charity. There are potential solutions, but we need the political will from those in Government who have the power to make these decisions.
“NHS Property Services is a Government-owned company with just one shareholder, the Health Secretary Steve Barclay. He has the power to resolve this situation and secure the long-term future of our hospital, and other small rural hospitals across the country.
“I will continue to raise the threat posed by these damaging proposals and fight to save the whole of this local hospital for the community. Local people have made plain to me this afternoon that they feel that the Hospital is theirs – and in their eyes – not available for NHS Property Services to sell.”