Last week, we received concerns on social media from the local community about the closure of Paulsgrove and Wymering Healthy Living Centre, so we set out to discover what was happening. Here’s what we found. Paris Ali-Pilling reports, with additional reporting from Sarah Cheverton.
When the S&C team were tasked with confirming reports that the Paulsgrove Healthy Living Centre was to close on 1st November, and asking what was to happen to the building when it closed, we thought it was a fairly simple task.
We first rang the number for the Healthy Living Centre itself, hoping to confirm with a member of staff. The number rang then automatically disconnected with no answer. We rang the Council’s Helpdesk to check the number, who firstly gave us the number we were already ringing, then referred us to Age UK in North End. Puzzled, we rang Age UK, who said they had no affiliation to the Healthy Living Centre in Paulsgrove.
Having been unable to get a simple answer to what we thought was a simple question, we made it official and contacted the Council’s media team for a statement. They confirmed that ‘the lease for the Paulsgrove Healthy Living Centre is being returned to [the Council] next month’ and that the lease is ‘currently with the NHS.’
When the Centre has been returned to the Council in November, the media team confirmed, PCC will ‘look at feasibility for its use.’
We then got in touch with the NHS media team, who, despite being neither the owner nor the main tenant in the Centre, were able to provide the most information about the Healthy Living Centre.
Portsmouth City Council is the owner of the Healthy Living Centre building, however the head tenant was NHS Property Services, who sub-let part of the premises to a nail-assessment clinic for Solent NHS podiatry services.
At a council meeting on September 12th 2019, Solent NHS Trust briefed local councillors that podiatry services currently offered at 5 sites across the city are being relocated to ‘the new St Mary’s [Community Health Campus] Hub’, with relocations set to begin ‘from the end of October 2019.’
The Paulsgrove Healthy Living Centre is one of the five sites being relocated, along with:
- Cosham Health Centre
- Eastney Health Centre
- Lake Road Health Centre
- The Turner Centre, St James’ Hospital
You can find full details of the changes to podiatry services in the full report submitted by Solent NHS to councillors on 12th September 2019.
As part of these changes, NHS Property Services gave NHS Solent Trust notice to leave the building, which would then be returned to Portsmouth City Council. All other services located in the building will also leave. Until the recent closure of three dentist surgeries in the city by Colisseum dentists, Paulsgrove Dental Care Ltd was also located in the building.
So finally, we had discovered at least some of the factors that led up to the closure of the Healthy Living Centre, but we are no closer to finding out what may happen to the building in the future. This will depend on the feasibility study for its use undertaken by Portsmouth City Council when it takes back the building on 22nd November 2019.
We contacted several local councillors: Cllr Matthew Winnington, the Cabinet Member for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care, and the three ward councillors for Paulsgrove, Cllr John Ferrett, Cllr Jo Hooper and Cllr Gemma New.
At the time of writing, only Cllr Ferrett replied. He told us:
‘The Healthy Living Centre has been progressively run down over the past few years and, undoubtedly, budget cuts have played a role in this. I have been pushing for some time for this building to be released, by the NHS, for community use.
‘I raised this with both the previous Conservative administration and the current Lib Dem Cabinet Member, Matthew Winnington. Furthermore, I raised the preposterous situation that saw the NHS paying £90k to keep the building largely empty, including £50k to Portsmouth City Council and a £40k charge for the void space. I remarked to the council administration that this was a crazy situation to pay so much to keep a building empty whilst at the same time making budget cuts to social care.
‘Clearly, I still retain the hope, and will continue to lobby for the building to be brought back into community usage for the residents of Paulsgrove.’
In conclusion, we can confirm that the Healthy Living Centre in Paulsgrove will be closed from 1st November 2019 and that the Council will be taking it back from 22nd November 2019. The Council have told us they will be undertaking feasibility work to decide the fate of the building after this date.
However, we cannot explain why information is not publicly and easily available about the centre’s closure,about its impact on local residents or about the future of this community building. Nor can we confirm if and when local residents may get to have their say on its future.