Controversy in Dartmouth

A lot of heat is being generated about where best to site the proposed new Health and Wellbeing Centre--to locate it on the overflow car park adjacent to the Leisure Centre or on the Dartmouth Hospital site. But, on objective criteria, setting aside emotion for a moment, this is a no-brainer. The hospital site is hard to access, it has a worn out Victorian building on it which would need to be demolished and the space is cramped allowing insufficient floor space unless it went to four floors. And even then there would be no room for expansion. Parking down town is a well known nightmare. The idea of putting in underground parking is fanciful (because expensive). Planning permission would be very controversial and hence take time and lead to extra unforseen costs related to problems with neighbours and difficulties of access.

The site at the top of town would provide lots of space for parking and expansion, would be easy to access especially for two thirds of patients who live at the top of town or in the surrounding villages, and it would be relatively easy to construct a self-standing, modern, state of the art facility. Consequently the build will be cheaper and the site would be much cheaper. To me it is staggeringly obvious which is the more appropriate site.

Some have suggested converting the existing hospital building to accommodate the health and wellbeing centre. But that would be a very poor second best solution, because of the unsuitability of the site. Refurbishing old buildings is always costly and the outcome would be greatly limited by the cramped site and the constraints on design of the existing building.

Losing the hospital has resulted in losing the availability of care beds with nursing. This has nothing to do with the proposed Health and Wellbeing Centre. The purpoise of the latter is to provide fit for purpose accommodation for the GP surgery, NHS clinics and Dartmouth Caring all in one place where care can be joined-up and easily coordinated. It would be wonderful if accommodation for beds with nursing beds could also be provided next to the proposed Health and Wellbeing Centre, but that is a challenge because the minimum size of a viable nursing home is one with 16 beds (2 nurses for each 8 hour shift, etc., etc,). The only realistic and affordable way to provide the nursing beds is to locate them within a care home. Finding a way to achieve this is the challenge we now need to take up.

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