£2.1 million bid to buy Seaton Hospital

PUBLISHED: 15:01 30 December 2019

Seaton Hospital with Cllr Jack Rowland inset. Pictures: Chris Carson

Seaton Hospital with Cllr Jack Rowland inset. Pictures: Chris Carson

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Seaton Hospital is set to be saved and turned into a ‘health hub’ for the community.

The hospital saw its inpatient wards closed in 2017 and currently only 35 per cent of the building is being occupied - a situation that is 'not tenable financially'.

The site is currently run by NHS Property Services, but community group Seaton Area Health Matters (SAHM) has put forward plans to buy the building and use it as a health hub for the community.

East Devon District Council's cabinet is being recommended to loan SAHM £2.1m to enable the purchase of the site.

If approved by full council, it would buy the hospital from NHS Property Services and then immediately sell it to SAHM. It would then repay the council over 40 years.

In his report to the cabinet Simon Davey, strategic lead finance, said that SAHM is now in a realistic position to put forward a bid to purchase the hospital for the benefit of the community and it is requesting the council agree in principle to provide the necessary funding to give credence and confidence to its bid.

His report says: "The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (RDE) continues to run day clinics in part of the hospital including a physiotherapy gym. The place-based care teams are also located in the hospital.

"While the clinics and care teams provide a valuable service it is recognised that there is a need for community based clinical support in the form of additional clinics, therapy sessions and classes.

"If an alternate structure cannot be agreed the RDE/CCG may have to pull out of Seaton Hospital and it could then be disposed of possibly to the private sector or for alternative development."

The hub could also provide the following:

- A centre of excellence for elderly care incorporating frailty and dementia comprising assessment, care provision, carer support, preventative and educational measures.

- An educational centre to tackle obesity via tailored solutions for individuals and arranging in house support sessions, healthy cooking lessons on a budget, sessions tackling underlying issues (drugs, mental health, debt advice, jobs advice / training) and weight loss programmes via fitness improvements.

- Extending the gymnasium equipment and space.

- Providing space for young people to meet informally in a safe environment.

- A space for mental health support for young people.

- Pre-school club to supplement existing service.

- A 'one stop' reception area providing advice on services available via face to face, telephone calls, internet enquiries.

- Space for voluntary groups involved in health and wellbeing to operate from.

- A café for staff and visitors and providing lunches to older people visiting or to encourage people suffering from loneliness to visit.

- Creating an additional voluntary car service to operate in the Axe Valley area that could be administered from the 'one stop' reception area.

When it meets on Wednesday, January 8, East Devon District Council's cabinet is recommended to recommend to full council to loan Seaton Area Health Matters - to be formed into a Charitable Incorporated Organisation - £2.1m for 40 years on an annuity loan to purchase Seaton Hospital.

The report also recognises that the issues being addressed in Seaton may have commonality in the district, but Mr Davey added that any proposal for support will be considered on a case by case basis requiring a viable feasibility and viability assessment and viable business plan to support any request.

Jack Rowland, chairman and founder of SAHM, said: "The stage we have reached is due to the work that has been put in by the steering group over the past 15 months and is an important milestone in our efforts to secure the hospital site for the benefit of the local community and ensure the current services continue and be enhanced with other services by utilising the empty space."

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