A Victorian former cottage hospital gifted to a North Yorkshire town but closed by the NHS, is likely to be reborn this year as a community hospice, councillors have said.
The Lambert Hospital at Thirsk, named after a local doctor and endowed by his family “to supply medical and surgical aid and medicine for the sick and injured” of the neighbourhood, has lain dormant since it was closed in 2015, despite fierce local opposition. Its managers at South Tees NHS Trust said staff shortages had made it untenable.
The building was bought for around £50,000 less than its market value by Hambleton District Council, after the then Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, intervened to stop it going to the highest bidder – a deal that could have seen it redeveloped into flats.
The council, which paid £350,000 for the building and guaranteed that it would be preserved for community use, said it had received around 600 responses to a consultation and that most had supported its idea to use it to provide end-of-life care for local residents. Some 200 turned up at a public meeting to discuss its future.
The council said it was in “advanced talks” with the Herriot Hospice, a charity based in Northallerton, which provides palliative care to patients in their own homes. The charity’s patrons include the former local GP Rosie Page, daughter of Alf Wight, the Thirsk vet whose pseudonym of James Herriot gave the organisation its name.
Council leader, Mark Robson, who had earlier called the proposals “the best option of a bad job”, said the establishment of a permanent hospice on the site was “an exciting opportunity”. A detailed plan will be put to fellow councillors in September.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “We obviously wanted to see it reopen as a hospital, but it became very apparent early on that that was never going to happen.
“People are very emotive about the building. It belongs to the residents of Hambleton and there is clearly a need for a facility like this. We are in talks with Herriot Hospice, looking at how a hospice might work in this space. This is something we need not just for the town but for the district as a whole.”
Tony Collins, chief executive of Herriot Hospice Homecare, said the building could make “a huge difference to the lives of local people living with terminal illness and bereavement”.
He added: “It is very important that the community has identified a need for palliative respite care in their area and that they thought of us to provide such vital services.
“We are working with the council to develop proposals for how the space can be best used.”
The hospital, on Chapel Street, is around 25 miles from the next nearest hospice, St Michael’s, in Harrogate.