HEALTH chiefs were told to “fess up and be honest” as they came under the spotlight from Winchester residents airing fears of plans for a new hospital.

Over 160 people logged onto an engagement session focussing on health services in the city and the future of Royal Hampshire County Hospital.

The community meeting on Thursday was the first specifically for Winchester under the Hampshire Together programme which will see a health campus including a new hospital built to serve mid and north Hampshire.

As previously reported senior staff at the Romsey Road site have expressed concerns to the Chronicle about closures of A&E and consultant-led maternity care, these were echoed by a number of residents.

Jenny McRobert said: “Winchester Hospital has provided me and my family with a first-class service over many years. It is an excellent local hospital where we have had the most up to date treatment. So why are we even thinking of closing or reducing this excellent local facility.

Others pressed health bosses to reveal the actual proposal, but the team insisted no decisions had yet been made.

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Chief medical officer Dr Lara Alloway said: “There really isn’t a plan at the moment and what we know is we do have some challenges that we need to think about how we address, but we want to work with you about how we can do that.”

She continued: “As you will know we run two emergency departments. They are both small medium sized departments and I have to say we do really struggle to staff them.

“We recognise that sometimes people do have to wait longer to be seen and treated than they ought to be, so we really need to think about all sorts of emergency care.”

Dr Alloway also said that through the engagement sessions it has emerged that expectant mothers would like more choice, but she said the trust is unable to deliver that while still running consultant-led maternity units.

Others also aired concerns about the older population not being able to travel to wherever the new hospital is based to be able to access specialist care.

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And Winchester and Chandler’s Ford MP Steve Brine said: “At the end of the day you are building a new hospital because that is part of this and that will create a centre of gravity and that will have an impact on services in Winchester, you have to be honest about that.

“You have to fess up and be honest about that because you are not going to create acute, obstetric and consultant-led maternity care at lets say Junction 7 (Dummer, Basingstoke) and then again at Winchester and then again at few miles down the road in Southampton. You are just not going to do that.

“No regulator in the world, let alone any minister would sign that off, so there is an implication to doing this and there will be winners and there will be losers out of doing this.”

But some agreed that Winchester hospital needs improvement. Carol Deans said: “Much as I love RHCH it is not the easiest site to get to or get around.

“If a better site can be found for services that lots of people need to travel for that shouldn’t be discounted, just because no one wants to lose the RHCH.”

Another engagement session specifically focussing on Winchester is expected to take place in August.