A SMALL HOSPITAL which has served a North Yorkshire community for 126 years is to be permanently closed as NHS chiefs push ahead with proposals to transform local healthcare.
Despite a spirited campaign by locals keen to see the facility retained, the governing body of NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has decided that the 14-bed Lambert Memorial Hospital in the market town of Thirsk should shut for good.
The leader of Hambleton District Council yesterday described the news as ‘disappointing’.
Coun Mark Robson said that while the decision was what he had expected, it was nevertheless a blow to the community.
He said: “This hospital has been a valuable asset to Thirsk and the surrounding area for many years and local people have fought long and hard to keep it.”
The Lambert Memorial had provided inpatient care until September 2015 when staffing shortages prompted what was initially considered a temporary closure.
Its long-term future came to rest on the outcome of a public consultation on inpatient and rehabilitation beds in community settings across Hambleton and Richmondshire.
The changes approved by the CCG governing body will also mean the removal of nine community rehabilitation bed from the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton. Instead the CCG will commission beds at sites across the area, including in Thirsk, Northallerton, Bedale, Stokesley, Leyburn and Bainbridge.
Coun Robson said: “Now we have to ensure that alternative provision is found to take up the work done by beds at the Lambert and those going in the Rutson ward at the Friarage.
“The recommendation to keep the Lambert as a building for primary health care is a positive move – and one we will be pressing hard to see this achieved.”
A pilot ‘step-up step-down’ facility in Richmondshire will continue to run under the ‘Transforming Our Communities’ option chosen. The beds can be used to provide a higher level of care for patients deteriorating on a ward or a lower level of care for patients transitioning out of intensive care.
Stroke rehabilitation beds on the Ruston Ward at the Friarage will be unaffected.
Once the new community beds are commissioned, patients will be supported by a team of healthcare professionals to include GPs, social care, community nurses and the voluntary sector.
The CCG’s chief officer, Janet Probert, said it had consulted on three options, with 58 per cent of the public choosing its preferred option which meant that Lambert Memorial would be permanently closed.
She said 55 per cent of those from choosing that option were from Hambleton, 38 per cent were from Richmondshire and the remaining seven per cent where from outside those areas.
Thanking all those who took part in the consultation, she said it had helped the governing body make a fully informed decision.
“We will honour the preferred option chosen by the public and work with South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, GPs and social care to implement Option Three,” she said.
“We fully appreciate that some residents may still feel concerned about this and would like to provide further reassurance that care will be re-provided in the community, but in locations more accessible for wider Hambleton and Richmondshire communities.”
Lambert Memorial will be returned to the ownership of NHS Property Services and the hospitals foundation trust, which had run the inpatient unit, will permanently relocate all staff and equipment.
The CCG will now begin work on the timescales and finer details of how the changes will be brought into effect.
It said it hopes to be in a position to share more information at its next governing body meeting in March.