LITTLEHAMPTON Hospital will not be rebuilt, but that does not mean the town will not have better facilities and services to cater for the health needs of the area’s growing population.
That’s the ambition of Dr Tim Kimber, a partner in the Park Surgery in St Flora’s Road, and vice-chairman of the Coastal West Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which officially takes over running the NHS from next April, but in practice is already holding the reins.
And he insists that, although the hospital is not being replaced, there could well be investment in new health facilities in the town.
Major housing developments at North Littlehampton and Courtwick are likely to contribute six-figure sums for health facilities in the town. Sites have been mentioned near the Worthing Road allotments and on former playing fields north of the Littlehampton Academy, but no firm plans exist at present.
“That money must be invested wisely and must cater for the needs of the population. It could be invested in some sort of facility, providing diagnostics, outpatients, and accommodation for the mental health service.
“However, it’s not just about the building, but the services we provide. We do have to step up to the plate to provide care for the frail elderly, working with our colleagues in social care to ensure we don’t send elderly people to hospital, which is a dangerous place for them, with hospital-acquired infection.
“Our commissioning intentions are very clear. We want to move care out of big hospitals and into communities. One of the hurdles is to discuss with St Richard’s Hospital (Chichester) and Worthing Hospital how we move services into communities. We can’t do that, and still be paying a huge contract fee to the hospitals.”
The decision on the hospital received a strong backlash from community leaders and campaigners, but Dr Kimber stressed: “It does not rule out the possibility of investment in infrastructure in the future to cater for the real needs of the population, which we recognise as being, health promotion and illness prevention, particularly around smoking cessation, obesity, drug and alcohol problems, and mental health problems, all of which we acknowledge are associated with the areas of deprivation in Littlehampton.”
He pointed out: “We have access to 67 beds for the 100,000 population of the Arun locality, at Zachary Merton Hospital and Darlington Court Nursing Home. The average across coastal West Sussex is 29 per 100,000. In Adur, they have no beds – if you live in Portslade, you have to go to Worthing, but here we have people who don’t want to go to Rustington.
“Our intentions over the next three to five years are to move from what has previously been hospital-based care into more of a community setting – bringing care closer to patients’ home.
“You had Littlehampton Hospital. And we still have Littlehampton Health Centre. Littlehampton Hospital had the minor injuries unit and we are still providing that. Littlehampton Hospital did have an x-ray department, but it was completely out of date.
“But I accept that we don’t have suitable diagnostic facilities in Arun, compared to, say, Bognor, where they do have decent diagnostics. There is definitely a case for getting these into this area.
“But really, the main thrust of the old hospital was providing nursing care to frail, elderly patients, in beds. They are still provided at Zachary Merton and Darlington Court. But we want to do more of that in people’s homes.
“There might be better uses for the land than as a hospital, perhaps as a health facility. We are aware that the surgery at East Street has been having problems with its own facilities. Wouldn’t it be neat to solve that in one go?
“We are also aware of Arun District Council’s view that the land is in a prime position and they might have something in mind for that.”