Health chiefs deny any Saffron Walden Community Hospital closure

Saffron Walden Community Hospital

Saffron Walden Community Hospital - Credit: Archant

HEALTH chiefs have rubbished rumours that Saffron Walden Community Hospital is at risk of closure.

The Radwinter Road facility is currently operating under capacity and, with reports of services being scrapped, there were fears its doors could shut for good under a revamp of health provision in Uttlesford.

Speaking at a Saffron Walden Town Council meeting, Cllr Mike Hibbs, who attended the recent forum arranged by the newly-created West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Unless the community hospital is properly used it will be closed. At the moment it’s not running anywhere near capacity.”

He referred to the closure of the endoscopy clinic at the end of last year, saying it had “surprised and disappointed” him, and feared more services could follow.

Fellow town councillor Doug Perry expressed concern, telling the Reporter: “People have got to use the hospital or lose it. That is the biggest message to get across.”

However, chief officer of the West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, Clare Morris, moved to clarify the situation.

Ms Morris, who was at the debate on Tuesday September 11, said: “I think there has been some misunderstanding regarding Saffron Walden Hospital. It is true that currently some of the services are not used to full capacity but Saffron Walden Hospital is not under any threat of closure.

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“In fact the trend is towards providing more services locally, closer to where people live and from our conversations with them it is very clear this is what they want as as well.”

Armed with a £300million budget to ‘buy’ health services for people in West Essex, the CCG has been consulting residents about shaping the future.

Chairman of the West Essex CCG, Dr Rob Gerlis said the vision was to bring healthcare to people in the community rather than have them travel to hospitals such as Princess Alexandra in Harlow and Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

“Saffron Walden Hospital, like other hospitals in West Essex, are golden nuggets to the healthcare economy,” he said.

“The future is for more primary care work to be done in the community so why on earth would we look at closing something we could use for that?

“The question is how it is used – that is key to how we move forward.

“Premises like these are gold dust for us and Saffron Walden Hospital itself is certainly a jewel in the crown.”

Dr Gerlis told the Reporter big hospitals were expensive to run and foresaw the possibility of Saffron Walden offering treatment for diabetics, bronchoscopies and even cancer patients.

“We are on the cusp of big changes to the way things have been done historically,” he added. “The huge beast that is the NHS has been grinding to a halt over the last 10 years but we’ve finally got something fresh and new happening.”

Despite the reassurances, Cllr Perry said it was still “vital” the community let health bosses know how much the hospital is valued in the town.

He added: “We desperately need this hospital. It is the last outpost in Essex and people really use it.”

• Residents can call 01992 566140, e-mail or visit to have their say in the My health, My future, My care campaign.