Plans to revive much-loved town hospital as a community-owned health centre

PUBLISHED: 15:33 14 November 2008 | UPDATED: 13:43 06 May 2010

A VISION for Harpenden Memorial Hospital (HMH) to be transformed into a community-owned facility was revealed at a meeting today (Friday). GPs from Harpenden and St Albans have announced that they would like the 60-year-old site in Carlton Road – known as

A VISION for Harpenden Memorial Hospital (HMH) to be transformed into a community-owned facility was revealed at a meeting today (Friday).

GPs from Harpenden and St Albans have announced that they would like the 60-year-old site in Carlton Road - known as The Red House -- to become a community-led health and well-being centre.

It follows a year-long independent feasibility study commissioned by West Herts Primary Care Trust (PCT) which currently owns the site where some out-patient services continue and minor surgery still takes place.

Details of the study were unveiled at a meeting in the Red House, and it included findings that there was strong local support for the retention of health services at the hospital along with a real enthusiasm for a community-led future.

But it also revealed that at least £250,000 would need to be spent on refurbishing and repairing the hospital, much of which is no longer fit for purpose, before it could reopen as the type of facility proposed.

Local stakeholders and the public are being urged to back the plans, which would see the return of some inpatient beds, the last of which the PCT took away around two years ago despite an impassioned campaign by the community to retain the ward.

Also proposed for a future centre are health and social care services via outpatient clinics, rehabilitation, diagnostic services, alongside complementary medicine and local care support.

The PCT has already said it is keen to become a partner and make the vision a reality but the proposals are still at a very early stage.

GP Dr Dylan Philips, who chaired the feasibility study, said: "If this vision is realised, the hospital would again reflect its heritage as a gift to the local community. It would serve the health needs of local people and be run in their interests in perpetuity."

He added: "We call on the PCT and members of the local community to work with us to make this happen."

The first step will be to get people to sign up to the vision and form a group to provide

leadership. A business plan would then be drawn up and resources and funding sought.

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I should probably have taken the hint! Walking out into the garden recently an unprecedented flock of thirty or more crows raucously greeted me from the treetops at the bottom of my garden. Cawing and croaking these big, black birds clung clumsily to the top most branches and twigs, jostling and flapping to stay balanced in a constant flurry of feathers. There is always something ominous about crows – they are after all carrion crows, the vultures of the bird world – always watching for scraps and weakness that might mean their next meal.

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