RADICAL plans for the future of healthcare in Winchester have been criticised by politicians and on social media.

The local NHS has published options for the future of hospital care and most will see a reduction of specialist services at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital including consultant-led maternity and A&E moving to a new hospital, yet to be built.

A group on Twitter, SaveWinchesterHospital, tweeted: "This means the end of Winchester hospital as we know it. Yet the population of Winchester is due to grow by 30% over the next ten years and the population is getting older and so needing more care.

"The loss of care to Winchester is massive. The deception is almost as frustrating. They know that it means the end of a fully functioning hospital in Winchester, yet use weasel words to avoid saying so.

"The ecological implications of a green site build, and of requiring more people to drive, are also significant. The new hospital will be away from main bus routes and population centres."

Another tweet stated that contractors were already being approached to undertake preparatory construction on a new hospital, just south of Basingstoke.

The Hampshire Together: Modernising our Hospitals and Health Services programme, in a statement, said: “At this stage, no decisions have been made on either the location of facilities or how clinical services will be provided in the future as part of the Hampshire Together programme.

“Our inclusion on the government’s Health Infrastructure Plan provides a fantastic opportunity to improve health services across north and mid Hampshire. There will be lots of opportunities for everyone across north and mid Hampshire to share their views and ask questions throughout the process, beginning with but not exclusive to the period of formal public consultation that we are planning to hold early next year.”

Local politicians have also been critical. Lib Dem city and county councillor Martin Tod said: “These proposals are a direct consequence of NHS policies and funding decisions put in place while Winchester MP Steve Brine was a health minister – it’s pathetic to deny responsibility. Just like his failure on pandemic planning when he was in charge of Public Health England, he failed to do a proper job on thinking through the need for District General Hospitals.

"Whatever the final plan is, needs to take proper account of transport. It really matters for staff and for patients. It also makes a huge difference that people can continue to go to a local hospital 24/7 if they need – as well as having access to outpatients and surgery planned in advance – so we unambiguously favour those options – and we’ll be working constructively to make them happen.”

Lib Dem Cllr Jackie Porter said: “The local NHS has made a real effort to consult local people. What the pandemic has shown is that we need a strong network of local hospitals tightly linked in to primary care – but we also need to make sure we have centres of excellence. For the most serious issues, no-one has a problem being taken to the right specialist hospital. The report is right to say the status quo isn’t option. Both hospitals are in poor condition. We can’t carry on as we are.”

The options in detail: Read more here