Hospital talks bring hope of better services

By in Health

A MOVE to bring more medical services to Minehead – including the possibility of re-opening operating theatres and installing kidney dialysis machines – could be on the cards following behind-the-scenes talks on the community hospital’s future.

Since in-patents were moved from the five-year-old £22 million facility to Williton Hospital in December because of staff shortages, district and county councillors have been working with NHS chiefs on a plan to re-open the Minehead beds, understood to be pencilled in for the end of March.

But councllors involved in the talks are angry that they could be jeopardised by a rival direct-action campaign organised by district council UKIP colleagues.

More than 800 people signed a petition in Wellington Square last Saturday calling for the re-opening of Minehead Hospital beds and the UKIP organisers are threatening sit-ins, protest marches and a bed-push through the town.

“This is just the start,” said former Minehead mayor and county councillor Terry Venner. “Minehead people don’t like to make a fuss but they are very angry about what has happened to their buses, their toilets and now their hospital.”

The petition, organised by Cllr Venner and three other UKIP district councillors – Ivor Jones, Adrian Benham and Tom Hall – will be sent to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt asking him to reverse the bed-closure decision.

But today (Thursday), Cllr Bryan Leaker, a district councillor involved in the ongoing talks with Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, hit out at the UKIP campaign, claiming it was being organised “with one eye on the county council elections in May”.

He told the Free Press: “My colleagues and I have been attending meetings to find a way forward, not like some councillors who spend their time whipping up hysteria rather than meeting and working with the partnership.”

Full report in tomorrow’s Free Press