A CAMPAIGNER who played a leading role in the battle to save the Margaret Stanhope Centre has welcomed plans to reopen the building as a community-style hospital.
Matt Long, founder of the now defunct Friends of Margaret Stanhope Forum, spoke after the Mail revealed proposals by the building’s owner, Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, to turn the former mental health unit into an elderly rehabilitation and outpatient facility.
“I was actually pleased when I read it was going to be retained as a state-run facility providing much-needed and valuable care for the elderly,” he said.
“My gut reaction was one of pleasure in reading the facility would be put to good use.
“My worst fears about the building being demolished and replaced by private housing have not yet materialised.”
As previously revealed by the Mail, the trust will use the centre to offer 21 rehabilitation beds, specialist clinics to support the frail elderly and other outpatient services and sporting therapy facilities.
The reincarnated centre will include improved access for disabled people, better lighting and decor, and upgraded shower rooms adjoining bedrooms.
Bosses’ aim is to open the unit in the 2013-14 financial year as part of longterm plans to relocate services from the Geoffrey Hodges building and consider the Outwoods site’s future use.
Despite the trust’s plans to breathe new life into the Margaret Stanhope, the closure of its inpatient psychiatric services has inflicted wounds likely to take some time to heal.
“I remain disappointed the Margaret Stanhope closed because it provided invaluable support to those with a spectrum of mental health illnesses,” said Dr Long.
“Many former patients and their families still feel there’s a need for institutional provision for the mentally ill.”
South Staffordshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) and South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust argued the Margaret Stanhope should close because sustained investment in community care had reduced the need for inpatient provision.
However, campaigners including Dr Long countered that closure would be a short-sighted and potentially dangerous move which would leave a vacuum of mental healthcare provision in East Staffordshire.
Patients from the Burton area who need institutional care are now forced to travel to Tamworth or Stafford to receive it.