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THE future of Melksham Community Hospital is one of the issues to be discussed as part of a wide ranging review in the town of local health facilities.
A local campaign group is looking to find out what local people would like to see happen to the hospital site and health care in the town generally. Amongst the ideas under discussion are:
• Plans to designate the Melksham Hospital site as a community asset to give local people more of a say about how it might be used or redeveloped;
• Explore a charitable Trust model to take over and run Melksham Hospital – either in its current premises or in a more suitable building on the current site, on an adjoining site or on a new site;
• Sell the hospital site and Canberra Youth Centre site next door and use the money to provide new state-of-the art health facilities on a new site in Melksham;
• Join forces with the Wiltshire Air Ambulance to provide a new health centre at its planned development in Semington Road.
The hospital on Spa Road was opened in 1938 and has been used for healthcare ever since. It once had 42 beds and state-of-the-art facilities.
Now, its role as a local community hospital has been lost but it still plays an important part in local healthcare.
Today it is used for specialist clinics including podiatry, physiotherapy, X-ray and children’s services.
However as an old building and with uncertainties over the future of health in the area, the hospital’s future is far from secure.
Melksham Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group (MNPSG) is gathering the opinions of local people to ensure that their interests are represented when any decisions are made.
Nick Westbrook of the MNPSG said, “The single storey hospital building covers a large area, which is becoming increasingly expensive to heat and maintain. It also means walks along long corridors for staff and patients to access the facilities.
“In short, it is becoming too expensive to meet the modern standards of healthcare facility that society now expects.
“Ownership of the hospital currently rests with the Great Western Hospital (GWH) Foundation Trust, based in Swindon, who won the contract to provide community care services across Wiltshire.
“Over recent years, to meet NHS operational priorities, Melksham Hospital has lost both the provision of hospital beds and seen the closure of the minor injuries unit.
“We understand the community care services contract is coming up for retender. What happens if GWH fails to win this contract?
“Local people may have little say in the outcome, and this, we feel, is completely unacceptable. So now is the time for local people to have their say.
“If the site is sold off – and that has not been ruled out at the moment – the local area may not benefit from any income so generated.
“We want the community to play as big a role as possible in the future of healthcare locally and welcome views from local people on what facilities they would like to see and how they would like to see healthcare evolve over the coming years.
“We think the town should play an active role in healthcare and not just have to accept what is offered.”