CAMPAIGNERS have revived their fight to rebuild Littlehampton Hospital after the new head of the NHS in England said smaller community hospitals should play a bigger role.
An online petition has been launched and on Saturday morning people will be invited to sign a paper version in the pedestrian precinct.
The non-political petition was the idea of former town mayor Rosemary Orpin, one of the original campaigners for the hospital, when it was under threat in the 1980s, and current town and Arun councillor Mike Northeast.
However, the local NHS says that, while it supports Mr Simon Stevens’ emphasis on providing more care closer to people’s homes, there is still no need for extra hospital beds in the area.
The petition, on the Government’s e-petition website http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/65808 states: “The people of Littlehampton support 100 per cent the CEO of NHS England for the need to decentralise the service and return the provision of health care back into the community.
“We, the undersigned, call on the Health Department to rebuild the community hospital at Littlehampton on its original vacant site as promised by previous PCTs (Primary Care Trusts). This will help put local healthcare back in the place of most need and is in line with the CEO’s future aspirations for a people’s NHS.”
Welcoming Mr Stevens’ remarks, Mr Northeast said: “It’s what everyone has been saying about the NHS for years, that centralising the service and vast general hospitals aren’t the answer.
“What we want here is a modern health facility to take the pressure off the hospitals in Worthing and Chichester, providing services such as minor injuries, clinics and minor surgery at a more local level so people don’t have to go traipsing off elsewhere, plus inpatient beds, although not as a geriatric hospital.”
Dr Tim Kimber, a Littlehampton GP who is also clinical lead at NHS Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “In line with Simon Stevens’ comments, as a CCG we are absolutely committed to providing more care closer to home for people living across our area.”
He added that ‘significant progress’ had been made and continued with new health and social care teams across the CCG area and running more clinics in the community for residents such as physiotherapy. Investing in NHS services in the community was the priority, providing services such as outpatients, diagnostic and therapy as an alternative to large district hospitals.
“However, we maintain our position with regard to the provision of community hospital beds. We continue to provide community hospital care, where clinically appropriate, at Zachary Merton and Darlington Court, and have demonstrated that the greater Littlehampton area is relatively well served in this respect, and there is no need for more beds.”