Letter to the Secretary of State for Health, Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP

I am writing to you as Chair and on behalf of City of York Council’s cross-party Health, Housing and Adult Social Care Policy and Scrutiny Committee in support the Site Development Plan for the Bootham Park Hospital site and the proposal for a delay in the current sale process. This is to allow sufficient time to develop a more detailed business case on how the site can be used to benefit the health and wellbeing of local people, the sustainability of our local health and social care system and our local NHS.

The main reason is that the key health and care organisations in the city, and York’s residents, deserve a strong voice in deciding the future uses for this valuable and historic facility, taking advantage of a once in 240 year opportunity to shape the future of this unique city centre site. 

Bootham Park Hospital was built by public subscription in the 1770s and has been a significant feature of the York health and care community ever since.  When it was decided in 2016 that the building was no longer fit for the delivery of mental health services, the Committee and the city stated clearly they desired that a continuing health and care use should be found for at least part of the site, paying homage to its historic significance and we recognise the clear and important link that exists between the Bootham Park Hospital site and the District Hospital next door.

We would like to see the site continue to be an important health resource for the city and for it to contribute to a better system for the future. We need and plan for:

  • An urgent care centre located close to A&E so that the pressures can be alleviated by good quality primary care close by. The best place to put this is on the Bootham Park Hospital site.
  • Continuing residential, nursing and extra care accommodation delivered on the site to help meet the needs of our growing older persons’ population, particularly those living with dementia.  York’s over 75+ population will grow by 50% over the next fifteen years and the number of over 90s will double and yet there is not enough good quality accommodation with care to support this growth. Use of some of the Bootham site will help, and by delivering these services we see a continuing mental health care use, paying homage to the intention of the original benefactors of the hospital.
  • By delivering nursing care on the Bootham site, the acute care hospital will be able to unblock beds occupied by older people living with complex care needs. In many cases their medical needs have been addressed but their additional needs require recuperation before moving back home. A step-down and continuing care facility on the door-step of the District Hospital – with the potential for commissioned services – will help to unlock capacity and resource in the acute hospital.
  • Homes for key workers to be located on the site, close to the hospital, enabling us to attract and retain health care staff to York by providing homes that they can afford. York’s property market is increasingly fuelled by executive and investment housing provision which increases prices and, therefore, excludes key workers in the public sector.  The impact on the District Hospital is stark: York has one of the highest temporary staffing bills outside of London and the excess cost removes resources from the delivery of patient services.
  • The public health benefits of parks and outdoor space are recognised by all, York has a congested urban core with limited outdoor space. The historic parkland at Bootham Park affords us an opportunity to turn this parkland into a playing field / public park. If sold without commitments to this provision, the opportunity for a space for physical activity on this site will be lost forever.
  • Improvement to the connections to York District hospital - by foot, bicycle and bus – so that York’s acute hospital can thrive. With land and traffic so contained in our historic city, imaginative planning of the Bootham site gives us the ideal opportunity to tackle a problem that will only get worse if not addressed.  Better and sustainable access to York’s main hospital will help to contain the air pollution difficulties which we face in the Bootham and Gillygate areas of the city, the main access routes to the site, helping with public health.

We share the aspiration of government and its agent, NHS Property Services, to realise the best capital receipt from the disposal of the Bootham Park Hospital site.  However, our stronger aspiration is to get the best possible outcome for the people of York and York’s health and care system from this opportunity. We are mindful of the fact that once the site is sold to a private developer and without proper guidance set out to shape their approach, the opportunity will be lost for good.

We urge you to delay the sale of the Bootham Park site until the Site Development Plan is completed. This will enable York’s public sector partners to pursue the development of a Site Development Plan which will involve stakeholder and public engagement and will seek to influence what happens on this site, ether via the realisation of a public purchase, a partner led purchase or via planning policy/enforcement.  This Site Development Plan, and the engagement which will underpin it, will go a long way to demonstrate the very real benefits that this site can deliver for York’s health and care system.

Kind regards, 

Cllr Paul Doughty

Chair

Health, Housing & Adult Social Care Policy & Scrutiny Committee

Conservative Member for Strensall Ward

City of York Council.