Rural hospital project revealed

MULTI-MILLION pound proposals to redevelop a rural hospital and create a "health village" have been unveiled.Proposals being discussed for the future of Hartismere Hopsital at Eye include conversion of the existing building into flats and the provision of a modern community hospital within the 5.

MULTI-MILLION pound proposals to redevelop a rural hospital and create a "health village" have been unveiled.

Proposals being discussed for the future of Hartismere Hopsital at Eye include conversion of the existing building into flats and the provision of a modern community hospital within the 5.5 acre grounds.

The new building would provide services which would enable people to avoid the long return journey to "acute" hospitals in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Norwich.

The success of the project may ultimately depend on the Central Suffolk Primary Care Trust finding a suitable private sector partner to finance the "health village" development through private housing schemes on the site.


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But outline proposals first have to be approved by the strategic health authority, due to consider the project in principle in October.

A public consultation over the future of Hartismere Hospital, which has existing geriatric inpatient services and a small range of outpatient services, was launched last year.

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The response was a call for a wider range of out-patient services, both at the hospital and available through home visits, so that local people did not face the difficulties in travelling long distances for consultations and treatment.

Julie Todd, project manager for Central Suffolk PCT, said there was no new money in the system and any expansion of services at Hartismere would have to be funded by the conversion of the existing building into residential accommodation and, possibly, new housing provision on part of the 5.5 acre site.

"Planners want the main hospital building retained. It is not on the preservation list but is regarded as a handsome building," she said.

The building, put up in 1913, could be converted into flats or become a private nursing home but there was also likely to be a need for housing development within the hospital grounds in order to finance the new hospital building and the expansion of health care services.

One idea was to demolish the former Gilchrist Maternity Unit, a single-storey building in the hospital grounds, and redevelop the site with a new hospital facility.

Services using the existing unit, including the birthing facility and complemenatry medicine centre, would be temporarily re-housed.

Mrs Todd said the range of services to be offered by the new "health village" could include respite care and "slow-stream" rehabilitation for people over 55.

A local dentistry practice was interested in relocating to the site which would be opposite the existing GP health centre.

"We would like to see some social housing provision as part of the project but this might have to involve a housing association," Mrs Todd added.

Sara Michell, a town councillor who is a member of the project steering board, said the plans were "very exciting".

"Something needs to be done up there because the existing facilities need up-dating," she added.

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