Calls for new community hospital in Hailsham ‘turned down’

A motion on the future of medical services in Hailsham passed by Wealden councillors has been described as a ‘slap in the face for residents’.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 1:53 pm

At a full council meeting on Wednesday (February 24), Wealden district councillors debated motions on how to improve healthcare provision in the town.

The original motion came from Liberal Democrat councillor Gavin Blake-Coggins, which called on the council to begin collecting evidence in support of bringing a community hospital to the town.

Cllr Blake-Coggins said: “It is my hope that this council recognises the significant growth of Hailsham. The current approximate population in 25,000 and that is rising due to all the new developments we have in the plan.”

Steve Murphy has been campaigning for a new community hospital in Hailsham

He added: “We’ve done some research on all of this and we’ve sent out 3,500 questionnaires and I have to point out that 82 per cent of those returned are in favour of Hailsham looking towards having a cottage hospital. 

“The government have identified monies for the construction of such premises and I do believe that if we get in there quickly then Hailsham and Wealden will be put on the map. 

“If we had a cottage hospital here, now, with this pandemic we may have found that the roll-out of the vaccine [was quicker].”

Cllr Blake-Coggins went on to say such a facility should have a minor injury unit, an X-ray department and 20 medical beds available for GPs to treat patients locally.

To bring this about, Cllr Blake-Coggins said the council should draw funding from reserves, which would be used to collect the evidence needed to support a business case for the hospital, while working with local partners and residents.

Once this was done, the motion also called for more detailed plans to be brought to the council’s cabinet within 12 months and to ensure housing developers paid towards the costs of the hospital’s construction.

The motion failed to win the support of the council’s Conservative leadership, however, which argued the motion was “flawed”.

Council leader Bob Standley said: “I do understand the sentiment behind the motion, although I believe cottage hospitals aren’t necessarily the route the health service are going by, I do understand the demand for one.

“As I say I do understand the background to it, but unfortunately I think it is flawed in a number of ways. 

“The opening paragraph states that the need for a community hospital has already been made, yet the motion is calling for evidence. That just seems slightly the wrong way round to me. 

“In a similar way the motion asks to collect evidence to substantiate the case for a hospital, which again is making an assumption before not based on any evidence collected, which is not normally good decision making.

“I’m also concerned that the motion asks the council to use its financial reserves to carry out what is effectively pre-decided research and not the health service which is where we should be lobbying.” 

In light of these concerns, Cllr Standley put forward an amended motion in place of the one put forward by Cllr Blake-Coggins.

Unlike the original motion it did not call for the use of reserves, nor the provision of a community hospital. Instead it called for “enhanced medical services in Hailsham, which the council is proposing within the wider Hailsham Aspires Project.” 

The amended motion went on to say the council should support the people of Hailsham to secure new healthcare facilities “whether it is medical centres, community hospitals or minor injury units.”

Cllr Standley also said this amended motion put the emphasis in securing new health provision through the Wealden Local Plan.

Cllr Blake-Coggins argued the amendment was ‘unnecessary’, but abstained on voting against it. 

Following this the amended motion replaced the original and was passed on a majority vote.

After the meeting, Steve Murphy who is spearheading the fight for a community hospital, said: “It’s a slap in the face for Hailsham residents. They have ignored the voice of the people saying we know what’s best for you, let the Department of Health handle the matter.”

He promised that the campaign will continue and encouraged residents to make their views known, especially to the town’s district councillors.

To view the petition visit https://wealdenlibdems.org.uk/en/petition/back-the-hailsham-hospital-campaign