“This is not the thin end of the wedge” to close Ilkeston Community Hospital, health chiefs said as they cut the number of beds at the site to 16.
The decision over the Heanor Road site was made at a meeting of the Derby and Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) on Thursday.
This brings the number of beds down to half the level it was this time last year.
As part of the move – which will take place from Sunday – more nursing home beds will be brought in, along with more in-home care ‘slots’.
The extra nursing home beds – to increase from three to 11 – will be located three miles away at Florence Shipley in Heanor, run by Derbyshire County Council.
Meanwhile, supported care at home ‘slots’ will be increased from 27 to 37.
Two extra hospital beds will also be available during periods of high demand – but these will be based at Ripley Hospital, 6.5 miles away.
Two police officers were in attendance at the CCG meeting, along with dozens of members of the public.
Dr Avi Bhatia, chairman of the CCG, said: “I feel that we have been clear that this is not the thin end of the wedge with regards to closing Ilkeston Community Hospital.
“We have quite a black and white model at the moment, with patients either at home or in hospital, and patients don’t always fit into that model.”
Meanwhile, Swadlincote GP Dr Buk Dhadda, said: “As a working GP, I have spent most of my life getting people out of hospitals – I like to see people back in their own homes, or normal place of residence, as soon as we can.
“I don’t think we always get that part right. Hospitals are not always the best place for patients.
“I think this is a positive way forward and I do support this.
“I am passionate that this must succeed and I would like to see people back in their normal place of residence in a timely manner.”
A similar model to bring ‘better care closer to home’ has been deemed a success for health services in the north of the county – which has been used to help support the move in Erewash.
Brigid Stacey, the CCG’s chief nurse and quality officer, said that announced and unannounced inspections would take place over the next six months to ensure that the changes are running according to plan.
The CCG will report back in six months with reviews on patient experience under the new model, along with the outcomes and length of stay for those patients, and the occupancy levels of beds.
Zara Jones, the CCG’s executive director of commissioning operations, said: “We carried out a 60-day period of engagement to fully understand the public’s views and the issues and to handle those concerns openly and transparently.
“We have also made sure to factor in any mitigations that have been raised.
“I think we have made a very clear statement, back in June, that there is no intention to close the hospital, this is about getting the best value for the community and providing people with care in the right place to meet their needs.
“The key driver is to deliver more care closer to home and better use of community resources.”
Health campaigners have spent months protesting against the plans – since they were brought back on to the table in June.
They have carried out a series of protests in response to the proposals, with a key roundabout in the town blocked off by campaigners during one.
Another saw a large gathering at the train station and on Friday, August 30, protesters marched from the hospital to the office of Erewash MP Maggie Throup in the town centre.
The CCG has confirmed that some hospital staff will be moved to new roles as part of the overhaul.
New roles as specialist therapists would also be created.
Two wards remained at the hospital but these have now been ‘consolidated’ due to staffing shortages.
Last month, the union representing hospital staff, Unison, said that a number of employees had already quit their jobs due to the “fear” that the site would close.
Excess space in the hospital may be used for other clinical services, but this is to be considered in the coming weeks and months.
Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service