Readers' opinion divided on arrival of High Street names at…

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THE news that a pair of High Street names will be moving into Torbay Hospital’s £15million development project has divided readers’ opinion.

The project will deliver a new, state-of-the-art Intensive Care Unit at the hospital, as well as provide accommodation facilities for relatives of those in the unit, and a warm and inviting new main entrance with café, shop and additional public amenities.

It was announced on Saturday that in the new main entrance, WH Smith will operate a convenience store and Aramark will run the adjacent 60-seater café.

The opening hours and product range of each outlet is currently being finalised but they will operate seven days a week and complement the other retail services run by Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust and the hospital’s League of Friends.

Some people were frustrated or angered by the news, given the recent revelation that 32 hospital beds are to be closed.

Sharon Simpson said: “What next? We don’t need a shopping centre at the hospital, we need beds! And staff to look after people in the community when they’re discharged from hospital.

Samantha Vast said: “More important to get ‘brand names’ up there than save the beds we so desperately need.”

Emma Lou said: “So they can close 32 acute beds but don’t worry because a WH Smith will be opening you’ll get the treatment you need in there instead! Unbelievable!”

Jenny Moore said: “Yet cutting beds! Is that not what hospitals are supposed to be about? Care, not shops.

Paul Bowden said: “Closing wards but spending all this money, madness!”

But many readers were pleased with the news, recognising that the retailers’ rent would generate very welcome extra income for the hospital.

Victoria Eldrew said: “Extra income from rent can only be a good thing. Somewhere for visitors to buy books etc. and maybe, just maybe give them a five-minute break to clear their head if they are spending long days visiting sick loved ones. Somewhere else to go when you need to stretch your legs, something else to take your mind off the situation.”

Hanah Thomas said: “Extra income to help pay for the work. It is helping towards the cost of something that taxes clearly can’t cover.”

Jontie Williams called on the critics to get some perspective. He said: “These ‘brand names’ will give the hospital an additional income stream and provide an additional service for visitors and patients. This money might even enable some beds to be kept open. It is not ‘back door privatisation’. It is not a ‘shopping centre’.

“Overnight accomodation is being built for those with family being treated in the new, bigger, modern intensive care unit, the building of which is the main reason this development is happening anyway. No one has to use the shops but some people might be thankful that the rent charged will help them to stay overnight close to a relative who is very seriously ill in the intensive care unit.

Rick Carter pointed out that ‘all major hospitals have retail outlets like this on site now’.