WHITEHILL and Bordon residents have just a few days left to tell the NHS what they think of local healthcare services.
Patients in the area are being asked for their views on outpatient clinics provided at the Chase Community Hospital.
The NHS said that with “declining numbers of patients using their services”, Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (HHFT) “is exploring the possibility of relocating the services it provides”.
Hampshire Hospitals is working with NHS South Eastern Hampshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which plans and funds the majority of health services for residents in the area, on finding a solution that works “best for patients”.
A public survey has been launched and meetings have been held with local community groups so that residents can “have their say”.
But some local people have already told the NHS what they think of these plans. One resident concerned about the issue, James Brand, has collected more than 1,800 signatures on a petition calling for improved healthcare in Whitehill and Bordon.
The main worry, he said, is “that the Chase hospital will close before the new hub is built and we will be left will no health services”.
He said he is “not sure” what the NHS is “trying to get” from the survey.
Local campaigners like Mr Brand fear that departing services are just further steps towards the hospital’s closure - something that has, until recently, been mere rumour.
However, giving credence to the suspicion, East Hampshire District Council (EHDC) member for Whitehill and Bordon, Ferris Cowper, said in July that the Chase Community Hospital would definitely close.
He also said there was “nothing” residents can do to prevent this fate. Nothing, he added, besides “replace it”.
Despite the apparent certainty, the NHS has maintained that the hospital will remain open long enough to ensure service continuity.
Previously, health bosses denied claims they plan to shut the Chase and insisted decisions will be made only when the long-promised “health hub”, delivered as part of Whitehill and Bordon’s regeneration, is secured.
Health provision in Bordon has been a contentious issue for some local people for many years, brought back to the table recently after HHFT announced it wanted to move services out of the Chase Community Hospital, and provide them instead at Alton.
The NHS explained the situation: “The services involved are the Hampshire Hospital audiology, ophthalmology, maxilio-facial, paediatric and X-ray outpatient services. Hampshire Hospitals does not own or manage the Chase Community Hospital but rents the space used there, as do other healthcare providers who also deliver services from the Chase.
“The CCG is also holding discussions with other providers to see whether another organisation may be able to continue to deliver services from Chase Community Hospital, as happened previously with the Community Midwifery service, which was transferred to the Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.
“Services provided at Chase Community Hospital by other healthcare organisations will be unaffected. These include: Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening, adult mental health and child mental health services, the day centre, iTalk, the drug and alcohol service, the musculoskeletal service (MSK), physiotherapy, the sexual health clinic, tissue viability and young person’s sexual health services.”
An outline business case is currently being drawn up for the new health hub, but the CCG said it can’t be finalised until “we have clarified lease arrangements for future tenants and the availability of NHS capital to support the scheme”.
This, the CCG expects, will take place in the autumn at which point the business case will come before its governing body for decision.
The current consultation will factor into the entire picture. However, to some, the survey appears a way to legitimise decisions that have already been made.
Whitehill town councillor Andy Tree said: “At the end it openly says it is considering moving services from Chase to Alton and questions about how far people may be willing to travel may be attempting to gather data to justify it?
“If services move to Alton, how would we get them back into a new health hub once gone? That’s my question.”
• The survey closes tomorrow (August 28). To fill it in, visit surveymonkey.co.uk/r/WhitehillBordon or, alternatively, Hampshire Hospitals’ website hampshirehospitals.nhs.uk/patients-visitors.