Big turn out for Harpenden Red House meeting

L-R Eric Midwinter, Harpenden Society, county councillor Teresa Heritage, Gerry Moir and David Law

L-R Eric Midwinter, Harpenden Society, county councillor Teresa Heritage, Gerry Moir and David Law - Credit: Archant

A NEW push to resurrect Harpenden’s Red House Hospital led to standing room only at a public meeting on the revival plan held last week.

The Harpenden Society hosted the meeting into the future of the town’s Memorial Hospital which passes into the hands of the Herts NHS Community Trust – formerly the Herts Primary Care Trust – in April this year.

Trust chief executive David Law has made no secret of the fact that the hospital is in a poor condition and has said that residents of the town will be asked for their views on what they would like to see there.

He outlined the services his trust was responsible for when he spoke to the public meeting. They include district nurses, podiatry, outpatient therapy, cardiac rehabilitation, palliative care and children’s health which he described as, “the human side of health”.

The trust’s assistant director for business development, Gerry Moir, who has been given the task of looking at options for the Red House building, said they ranged from doing nothing, which was not realistic, redeveloping the site or selling it.

She stressed that whatever was done had to be on the basis of need and an affordable nursing home plus clinics was a possibility.

The new facility would need to cater for at least 50,000 people from Harpenden, Wheathampstead and Redbourn and would cost up to £3 million or more, she went on. The timescale would be 18 to 24 months.

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Eric Midwinter of the Harpenden Society reminded the audience that the hospital was a “threatened valuable amenity” and the society had set up a taskforce to initiate and progress action.

He said that many residents firmly believed that it was vital to maintain local health facilities and establish a wellness centre within the town.

Chris Marsden, chairman of the Harpenden Society, expressed his delight at the large turnout and the “lively, intelligent questions being answered so positively.”

He went on: “There was clearly strong support from both the community and the officers for as much local care as possible, ranging from well-being facilities to respite care.”

He added: “Although there are fond memories of the old ‘cottage hospital’ an overwhelming show of hands showed preference for modern services and facilities over sentimental attachment to an old building.”

n It is not the first time that there has been a question mark over the future of the hospital. In August 2006, placard-waving demonstrators staged one of the biggest-ever marches through the town in protest against a proposed ward closure at the Red House which was, at that time, in the hands of the St Albans and Harpenden Primary Care Trust (PCT).

Despite the strength of opposition and concerns voiced by local GPs about alternative care proposals, the PCT voted unanimously to close a 20-bed ward in the hospital which had been used by local people. A number of community-based services remained on the site.