A NEW outpatients department for Haslemere Hospital’s minor injuries unit has been put on the back burner because of the “dire” state of The Royal Surrey County Hospital’s finances.

Chairman Rose Parry told the annual meeting of Haslemere Hospital League of Friends last week: “I am sure you are all aware the financial situation at the RSCH is now dire,”

With the Guildford based hospital some £11.4 million in the red, the 64th annual meeting was told last week a new building to replace the outdated 50-year-old outpatients department, which it was hoped would be approved at an RSCH board meeting earlier this year, had been put on hold.

In the meantime, following a meeting with the RSCH, in April, the League of Friends has agreed to look at costs and options for the new department which, because of its modular design, could be a two-stage development.

The meeting heard the LoF had continued to work with its health partners over the last 12 months in developing the outpatients department at Haslemere Hospital, and would continue to pledge its support to equipping the new department.

Mrs Parry added: “While we have been working with NHS Property Company and the RSCH in regards to outpatient services, we have also been very aware of the space issues facing the health centre.”

The health centre is leased from NHS Propco by GPs and Virgincare and more clinical space is required by the general practice. But Mrs Parry said: “We hope the delay in delivering the new outpatient space will provide breathing space to look at all the space issues on site and develop an estates strategy that meets the needs of all the patients who use the hospital site.”

Also caught up in the financial problems is the proposed merger between RSCH and Ashford and St Peters NHS Trust, which has also been put on hold follwing a recent Kings Fund Report, which questioned the effectiveness of mergers, especially those hospitals in a vulnerable position.

Plans for an expanded outpatients’ centre were unveiled by the League of Friends at its 2014 annual general meeting, and hailed as an “exciting opportunity” by Mrs Parry.

The push to expand Haslemere Hospital’s medical services was triggered by patient and carer feedback highlighting the high number of outpatient appointments being made at the RSCH, in Guildford, rather than in the town.

The hospital volunteers group worked up a project proposal, which it has offered to help fund, but the project will only go ahead with the backing of NHS Propco, which owns the site, and of Guildford and Waverley Clinical Commissioning Group (GWCCG), which is in charge of estate change and also absorbs costs associated with unused or unusable space on NHS estates.

Haslemere Hospital is well-placed for the development of healthcare both public and private, as it is situated away from acute providers, has excellent transport links and is located to servce three counties.

The hospital, in Church Lane, has an existing wide scope of health-related services and organisations on site. It has the infrastructure and building blocks to enable modernisation of clinical services to take place.

Other issues covered at last week’s LoF AGM, included news that adult community health services would change to being run by GWCCG, while Surrey-wide children’s services will remain as a single commissioned service led by the commissionng group serving Haslemere.

Mrs Parry told the meeting the CCG welcomed patient and carer feedback and bi-monthly meetings with health interest groups have covered the out-of-hours GP service, changes to district nursing services and health visiting, outpatient services, and mental health services, in recent months. The LoF also reported its successes including making wi-fi available to patients on the wards. It is due to be installed soon following an 18-month project.

It also welcomed the gift of a replacement bench at the front entrance to the hospital and health centre drive, donated by the Aikin family, and the purchase of a piece of diagnostic equipment used for muscular skeletal conditions for the physiotherapy department and muscular skeletal service.

The meeting also heard Dr Mark Hurst had joined the LoF committee following his retirement from general practice and congratulated Jossie McCathy, a long-serving committee member on receiving a Haslemere Award.

A comprehensive patient-led assessment of the care environment, covering the internal and external area, including food cleaning and equipment was carried out at the hospital in April, which Susan Joyce from Virgincare reported was going well

The LoF thanked the staff and health professionals who continued to work and deliver care in the NHS at a challenging time, and to Haslemere Flower Club for its flower arrangements.

It also thanked volunteers who take the trolley shop around the wards twice a week, and to all those who generously donate funds.

• The 11th-hour agreement reached with British Medical Association over junior doctors contracts was hailed by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Haslemere’s Tory MP, as a “major step forward for both patients and doctors”.

He said: “I am very pleased we have reached agreement with the BMA.

“This is the biggest single change to that contract for nearly two decades, and will help us to deliver a safer, seven-day NHS.

“Our agreement will make it easier for hospitals to roster doctors at weekends and safer for doctors by reducing the maximum hours they can be asked to work. A new family support package will help them balance their home life with work.”