'It's a scandal': Protesters rally together in bid to save empty wing at Devon hospital

Dozens of protesters gathered outside County Hall in Exeter ahead of a meeting about the future of the hospital wing. Credit: ITV News

Protesters trying to save an empty wing at a hospital in Devon have said it is a "public scandal" that so much money has been spent on it while it has been out of use.

Dozens of campaigners gathered outside Exeter's County Hall in a bid to save the two-story wing at Seaton Community Hospital ahead of a meeting with Devon's Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee on 9 November.

NHS Devon is planning to hand back the hospital ward to its property service due to a 'lack of financially viable plans' for the space.

The ward closed in 2017 so the NHS could make use of at-home and community care rather than in the hospital.

However the wing currently costs the NHS in Devon around £300,000 a year in rent and other charges.

Campaigners say the two-storey wing at Seaton Community Hospital was funded entirely by the local community. Credit: Google Maps

NHS Property Services, which charges NHS Devon rent for the vacant property, said it is working with Devon Independent Care Board to address the "ongoing issue of void space costs".

However Martin Shaw, one of the campaigners trying to save the hospital, said it's a "complete public scandal" that so much money has been spent on it while it has been empty.

"We paid for this building and then they've left it empty for six years at a cost of £1.8 million," he said.

Mr Shaw added: "Really what we now need to do is to make sure that it is used properly for the health and wellbeing of the local community as soon as possible."

Campaigners fear the wing could be demolished if it is handed back to the NHS Property Services.

They want the two-storey hospital wing to be repurposed as a care hub, which would then include support for patients with dementia as well as palliative care and bereavement support.

NHS Devon said they are yet to receive any "viable schemes" for the future of the space and as a result, it has started the process of handing the ward space back to NHS Property Services.

"We are continuing to engage with local partners in the community to talk about issues connected with the vacant ward space at Seaton Community Hospital and we have shared comprehensive background information about the current position," it added.