St James’ church was packed to capacity for two meetings on Tuesday 17 October. Around 800 local residents attended, hoping to hear positive news about health services returning to our town, after the destruction of Weybridge Community Hospital in the disastrous fire back in July.
The news was mixed. Good news is that the hospital site will be retained, interim accommodation for the two GP practices is being constructed as rapidly as possible, and should be up and running in December, and a new permanent building will be constructed on the site over the next three years or so.
The bad news is that Weybridge is unlikely to get back the Community Hospital as it was, with its Walk In Centre, X-Rays and extensive outpatient services.
What about the Walk In Centre?
So what will we get? North West Surrey Clinical Commissioning Group (NWS CCG) is responsible for deciding. The meetings were led by Matthew Tait, of NWS CCG, along with representatives of NHS Property Services and local GP practices.
The publicity handout headed ‘services returning to the former Weybridge Community Hospital Site’ (see below) made it clear that GP practices, a range of treatment room services, and Lloyds Pharmacy will return. Beyond that, all is up for discussion.
The great area of concern for residents at both meetings was the future of the Walk In Centre and X-rays etc. Will the Walk In Centre be returning?
We were told that Walk In Centres are now an outdated concept, that CCG thinking has moved on. But there will be treatment services. There is no short-term replacement for the Walk In Centre, as there is no space on the site and no other suitable site has been found. [Surrey County Councillor Tim Oliver on 20 Sept told local residents that part of the library building had been considered for a replacement Walk In Centre, but proved not to be feasible.]
CCG ‘engaging with community in NW Surrey’
Residents were told repeatedly by Matthew Tait of the NW Surrey CCG, and his colleagues, that they would be engaging with the community of North West Surrey to understand local needs, and that future services would be shaped to meet those needs.
It appears that NWS CCG are starting with a clean sheet of paper, and looking at the needs of local towns from Ashford to Woking and beyond, in deciding what future facilities we will have in Weybridge.
Before the fire at Weybridge Community Hospital, Weybridge was a hub for local community health services. The loss of the Community Hospital means that we are no longer a working hub.
The services delivered in Weybridge in future may be better or worse than before the fire, NWS CCG cannot say at present, but CCG have a duty to look at the overall clinical needs of North West Surrey.
Weybridge concern about LOCAL provision
For many Weybridge residents, the important question has a different emphasis: ‘will we get back the LOCAL provision of health services that we lost in the fire?’
NW Surrey CCG cannot promise that we will get them back. But CCG want to engage with the community, and the massive turnout at the two meetings — CCG had originally planned to hold them in a room with a capacity of 100 people! — is a sure sign that Weybridge residents care deeply about local provision of those services.
There are natural concerns that our town may be diminished by a long-term loss of local provision of services which we value highly and rely on.
But as Matthew Tait has said, we may get something better and more future-proof. Perhaps the voice of local residents will be heard.
Three years of interim services
20 ‘pods’ (portakabins) have already been sited on part of the Weybridge Community Hospital site previously used for staff car parking, and these are being fitted out as GP Surgery facilities, plus treatment rooms.
The interim facilities on the former hospital site should be up and running by December 2017, at which point the Church Street Practice and Rowan Tree Practice will return to Weybridge. Another pod will house Lloyds Pharmacy.
There will be parking on the interim site for about 30 cars (presumably this will mainly be for staff parking?), including disabled spaces. The impact of this reduction in parking over the next three years is likely to be significant.
[If the remainder of the site will not actually be built on until two years time, would it not be possible to level most of it, and use it for temporary parking until building actually starts?]
There were questions about the possibility of increasing parking space longer term via underground parking (too expensive at £15,000 per space, according to NHS Property Services) or a multi-storey car park on the site (not dismissed, but likely to face cost and planning issues).
Three year plan
The majority of the interim site will become a building site for construction of a new building by NHS Property Services, following commissioning by CCG, in a process expected to last around three years:
- 12 week consultation in NW Surrey looking at community clinical needs
- Followed by a feasibility study & further engagement
- Outline business case + procurement
- 2-3 months design
- 3-4 months for town planning consideration and consent
- 8 weeks tendering process
- 12 months of building and fitting out
Throughout the meeting, the words ‘engage’ and ‘engagement with the community’ were repeatedly used. PPDRA looks forward to genuine consultation, and has asked to be part of the process.