THE future of Okehampton Hospital is very important for a growing Okehampton community and further afield.

Over the years, I have engaged with representatives from the NHS, Okehampton Town Council and NHS Property Services (NHSPS) to ensure that appropriate health services are provided in Okey.

A disused ward has remained empty since a 2017 public consultation by the body responsible for the commissioning of healthcare in the region and earlier this year, following discussions and correspondence from constituents, I chaired a roundtable meeting with stakeholders which provided an opportunity to discuss possible further uses of the ward and options to make better use of the hospital more generally.

Several complex factors need to be considered when analysing potential options for the empty ward to make sure that the space is used for the best benefit of the local community.

I will be working with NHS and Town Council representatives in the coming months to ensure that this happens.

Healthcare services across the country are facing pressures something which has been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic, and it is important to recognise that there are ways in which care can be provided outside of hospitals.

This not only frees up emergency services and reduces waiting times, but also prevents bed-blocking, which causes problems for hospitals and patients alike.

I am fully supportive of the government’s roll out of 10,000 virtual beds providing support for people to receive care in the familiar surroundings of their own home – something that many prefer to hospital.

The Government is alive to the strain that has been put on the NHS in recent years, owing to factors such as an ageing population and the pandemic, and is working towards adapting our healthcare system to guarantee the long-term sustainability of the NHS.

As of January 2024, there were more than 68,800 full-time equivalent community nurses working in NHS trusts and other core organisations in England. This figure is up by more than 2,000 since January 2023.

Under the Government’s NHS long-term workforce plan, training places for district and community nurses will increase by almost 150 per cent to 1,800.

The workforce plan also sets out commitments to improving retention of these nurses, and will allow for further easing of pressure on primary care and emergencies services. 

For Okey hospital I was pleased to see the announcement from NHS Property Services of a £1 million investment into the ongoing working repairs to the roof and wider renovation, clearly demonstrating that there is a future for the hospital.

Further local working meetings are now being planned and will be held on a regular basis, so that positive option for the future of the hospital can be identified and practical proposals worked up.

I look forward to continuing my engagement with local stakeholders in the coming months to facilitate further constructive work between the local community and NHS representatives.

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