It has been a sad week for the northern part of High Peak, with the closure of Shire Hill Rehabilitation Hospital in Glossop, after almost 200 years as a workhouse and then a hospital.
Shire Hill will be mourned by the many people who have stayed at or used the hospital, and by the staff who formed an excellent team.
The hospital beds have been transferred to a new facility next to Tameside Hospital, so for me it is now important to see the beautiful site – which was gifted to the NHS by Glossop Guardians Board in 1952 – kept for the care of local people.
Unfortunately, such is the degree to which our NHS has been split up, that local health commissioners still need to pay a high rent to an arms-length body, NHS Properties.
As soon as the property is declared vacant, NHS Properties will reduce the rent, but only on condition that the site is put up for sale on the open market. In High Peak we all know that would see a public asset go to private developers.
So I’m working with the health commissioners, County Council and High Peak Council to see if we can take forward a consultation proposal I was supporting, for Shire Hill to become an elderly care facility.
If, like Thomas Fields in Buxton, it includes some beds for short-term patients, it would be a real asset to local people.
Nationally, we have now been promised an extra £20 billion a year for the NHS from 2020. Whilst I have been campaigning for extra spending on health since the start of the austerity measures, 10 years of effective cuts are bringing our NHS – and its staff – to their knees.
North Derbyshire and so many hospital trusts have such high deficits that most of the new money will simply be plugging the gaps. But I hope that the promise of extra funding means that the cuts planned for North Derbyshire in the ‘special measures’ imposed by NHS England will be less draconian.
We’ve already seen the closure of Spencer Ward in Buxton due to lack of resources, and I will fight against any other short-term cuts which see patients suffer and create more long-term costs for our NHS.
In Buxton we have a new health facility to look forward and I’m pleased that plans are progressing.
I look forward to a long-term plan for both health and social care. And plans to recruit and properly support the trained staff who are so desperately needed in almost every area of the health service, and especially in social care.
However shiny the buildings, our NHS is only as good as the staff who work there and we need to value and support them.