THE future of Chase Community Hospital continues to look shaky as NHS providers set out plans to “relocate” a number of clinics.
However, the local clinical commissioning group, which is responsible for buying in services, said this week that “no decisions” are likely to be made on the hospital itself “until definite decisions are taken over the proposed new health campus”.
Hampshire Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust provides a number of services at the Chase, including ear, nose and throat, audiology, maxillofacial, paediatrics and x-ray, all of which it thinks should go elsewhere.
In fact, the Trust said it “is keen to re-locate as many of the services as possible from Chase Community Hospital to Alton Community Hospital”.
However discussions are underway between the clinical commissioning group and potential alternative providers for some of these services, which could still appear at the new “health hub”.
In a communications and engagement plan, Hampshire Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust explain “the number of patients using these services is small and is reducing”.
“This in turn means that continuing to provide these services to local numbers of patients in the local area is becoming operationally difficult for the Trust and is not sustainable in the future,” it added.
The ball is already rolling, with plans now in place for the ear, nose and throat service to operate at Alton Community Hospital from June 21.
The report explains that these outpatient services see “an average of 46 appointments in total each week across all clinics” and, in the last year, the trust has treated just over 1,440 individual patients from Whitehill and Bordon. This is “approximately 8.75 per cent of the local population”.
The majority of the community “either attend Hampshire Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust services at different venues or are referred to one of three other local providers – Frimley Health, Royal Surrey and Queen Alexandra Hospital”.
Although “it is recognised” that relocating these services “will impact on patients and the local community”, the trust and clinical commissioning group want to “minimise” the inconvenience where possible.
They are also keen to point out that other providers operate at Chase Community Hospital, offering mental health services, physiotherapy, musculoskeletal service and a sexual health clinic, among others.
With thousands of homes in the works and an upcoming population spike, services leaving the town, instead of arriving, might concern some residents who already find Bordon’s amenities less than ideal.
And when it comes to deciding which services to include in the town’s new “health campus”, the status quo might well become the blueprint.
Speaking about these clinics, Chase League of Friends chairman Frank Williams-Thomas warned “once they’ve gone you’ll never get them back again”.
But for the NHS, it boils down to resources, efficiency and, in the case of the Chase, “the disproportionate costs of renting space relative to the activity delivered”.
Sara Tiller, South Eastern Hampshire clinical commissioning group’s director of primary care development, said: “The clinical commissioning group has always been and remains committed to ensuring residents in Whitehill and Bordon have access to a comprehensive range of health and well-being services.
“We are working with local GPs and partner organisations to develop in exciting new facility which would provide many of the services currently at Chase Community Hospital plus primary and community services and innovative models of care. We are also continuing to explore any opportunities to introduce new services to the site where feasible.
“The Chase site is owned by NHS Property Services, not the clinical commissioning group. But no decisions are likely to be made on its future until definite decisions are taken over the proposed new health campus.”
A Hampshire Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust spokesman told the Bordon Herald that the decision to move the ear, nose and throat clinic to Alton may be “disappointing” for patients, but it is “unfortunately necessary”.
Whitehill and Bordon is one of the NHS’s healthy new towns - a scheme which aims to establish the very best in healthcare. There are just 10 such towns in total.