NHS bosses have dismissed rumours that the Zachary Merton hospital is closing – despite one councillor saying its days are numbered.
James Walsh, Arun District councillor and a former GP, made the comments after expressing concern about a shortage of community hospital beds and an increase in ‘bed blocking’ – delayed transfers out of Worthing and St Richard’s hospitals.
He said that the number of beds blocked last year locally was 60 a day, double the previous year’s figure, with around 50 community hospital beds being closed in the last few years.
Dr Walsh also criticised the local NHS vision for a ‘virtual community hospital’ – GP surgeries working together and specialising to give services that patients would get in a hospital. He said: “The Chief Executive and the Chairman of St Richard’s and Worthing hospitals have both told us that half of the bed-blockers need community care beds. In my view those need to be real beds, and not virtual beds. We are talking about real patients here, not virtual people.”
He added that Zachary Merton Hospital in Rustington ‘is coming to the end of its life’ with no plans to replace it’: “If and when that happens, we will have lost all our local community hospital beds in just over a decade.”
An NHS spokesperson addressed these concerns and the planned GP practice on the Morrisons site in Wick, which suffered a setback after Dr Walsh revealed that Morrisons wants housing on its land instead.
They said: “We have not made any decisions with Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust to close Zachary Merton Hospital in Rustington.
“We understand the frustrations of patients and Arun residents around both the Morrisons site and the old community hospital site and appreciate that there have been significant delays to some projects and schemes.
“However, we remain committed to ensuring the right healthcare facilities are in place for the population of Littlehampton and continue to work with Arun District Council and GPs to progress plans for the Morissons site.”
They added that they are working with GPs to see what health services can be delivered in surgeries, and with ‘other NHS providers and local government partners’ to find sites for new medical facilities to meet the need of Arun’s growing population.
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