Two community hospitals in North Derbyshire could close as part of radical plans to change the way older people are cared for in the county.
Health bosses say the proposals would mean better care for elderly people in their own homes - minimising the needs for costly and traumatic hospital visits.
However, as part of the plans, both Bolsover hospital and Newholme hospital in Bakewell would close as would 100 hospital beds in community hospitals across the region.
The first of 11 public meetings on the proposals took place on Monday at Bolsover School with many of those in attendance unconvinced by the plan.
Bolsover resident and Socialist Party activist, Jon Dale, said: “There are currently 43,000 people over the age of 80 in Derbyshire and in 10 years time there will be 63,000.
“Shouldn’t we be increasing the number of community hospitals rather than getting rid of them?
“If people are going to be cared for in their own homes I think they won’t get proper care - they will get rushed visits.
“Behind this proposal is a plan to privatise services and you will end up with companies like Care UK providing minimal services and it will be the elderly who suffer.”
Another Bolsover man, Peter Bower. said: “I support the idea of providing care for people in their own homes but it has to be properly funded.
“Many of the professionals are on their knees at the moment as are the voluntary sector and people who care for others at home - what support can be put in place for them?”
Last week, Bolsover MP, Dennis Skinner, who was not at the meeting, went on record as saying that the proposals were wrong and would not be accepted by local people.
He told BBC News that they had ‘better get rid of that hospital idea’ as it ‘wouldn’t wash’ with the people of Bolsover.
The plans have come about as a result of a new partnership in North Derbyshire between the NHS, Derbyshire County Council and the voluntary sector called ‘21st century joined up care’ or ‘21C’.
As well as closing Bolsover and Newholme hospitals, the proposals would close dozens of beds earmarked for older people at Buxton’s Cavendish Hospital, Clay Cross Hospital and Matlock’s Whitworth Hospital.
The atmosphere at the meeting was at times fractious and distrustful but the health bosses present were at pains to insist no services would stop until an alternative is in place and those who need inpatient treatment will always be admitted to hospital.
They said that as well as a financial need for change, there was a clear clinical basis for the proposals as well.
Clive Newman, director of transformation and clinical programmes at the Hardwick Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We are not here to try and sell the idea to you or lie to you - we are just hear to explain it.
“Of course I realise that Bolsover hospital is valuable to the community of Bolsover but this is not about privatisation by the back door or about sending loads of money back to the treasury.
“The model of care needs to change. This new model of care will allow a better service in the future.”
Dr Bolo Owalabi, a Creswell GP and deputy clinical director of Derbyshire Community Health Services, said: “There is the clinical basis for these proposals and the financial case for them.
“The clinical basis for them is that bedded care in hospitals does not necessarily produce the best clinical outcomes.
“And in financial terms we know that if we continue with the current model of care we will have to deal with a £150 million funding gap in the future.”
At the end of the meeting, Clowne GP Louise Merriman, tried to address local people’s feelings about the building.
She said: “People are understandably emotionally attached to Bolsover Hospital but I would ask people to try to think about the bigger picture - is there any other way that we can ease things for people who do not live on its doorstep.”
Ten more public meetings will take place at venues around North Derbyshire during July.
If you can’t get to one of the meetings, you can get a copy of the consultation questionnaire and give your views on it by calling the North Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group on 01246 514176.
You can also get more information on the plan online at www.joinedupcare.org.uk or on Twitter at @21CNorthDerbys.
Comment on this story at derbyshiretimes.co.uk