A MEMBER of the House of Lords says the NHS should have closed some of its “lavish offices” instead of Thirsk’s Lambert Hospital, as she calls on the head of NHS England to overrule the decision.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering, the former Thirsk and Malton MP, has requested a meeting with the House of Lords’ Health Minister, Lord O’Shaughnessy and also written to the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, over the sale of the community hospital.

The Lambert Memorial Hospital closed in 2015, when South Tees NHS Hospital Trust announced the 14-bed facility would be temporarily shut with immediate effect, saying it was unable to find enough qualified nursing staff to operate the hospital safely.

In an unprecedented move, councillors from Sowerby Parish Council, Thirsk Town Council, Hambleton District Council and North Yorkshire County Council formed the Lambert Hospital Action Group.

The group, led by Hambleton council, wanted to purchase the building and use it as a health and community facility.

They put in an offer to NHS Property Services for the hospital, based on a valuation of the building as a community facility. But the offer was turned down by NHS Property Services – a company owned by the Department of Health which reinvests its money back into the NHS.

The building is expected to be sold to the highest bidder and a covenant placed on the site preventing its use as a healthcare facility.

Now Baroness McIntosh is calling on NHS England to allow local GPs to use the site as a healthcare hub with the support of Hambleton District Council. Alternatively, if the sale proceeds, she is asking that proceeds go to local GPs to create the healthcare facility.

She says “no evidence” was ever produced of nursing shortages for the Lambert at the time and says it makes the decision look like “a fait accompli to meet an arbitrary target for sales of NHS properties.”

She told The Northern Echo: “No evidence was ever produced of nursing shortages at the time of the temporary closure which makes the decision look like a fait accompli to meet an arbitrary target for sales of NHS properties.

“There are many other far more appropriate parts of the NHS estate ripe for sale such as lavish offices on the outskirts of York, not property which is used for the delivery of health care to the local community.

“The NHS should not flout the right of the people to enjoy good health care through the premises of the hospital on the site of the Lambert which was left to them in perpetuity by the family for generations to come.

“A health hub would bring enormous benefits.

I am seeking an early meeting with Lord O’Shaughnessy who sits as Health Minister in the Lords to ask the Government to step in and overrule NHS Property Services for the sake of the health of the people of Thirsk.

“I shall impress upon him that both the GPs and the people of Thirsk will feel very badly let down, having a facility left to them being arbitrarily taken from them.”

An NHS Property Services spokesperson said the offer from the council was below market value and so would not have been in the best interests of the health service.

She said: “NHS Property Services can only sell properties once the relevant clinical commissioning group decides that a property is surplus to NHS requirements.

“We proactively engaged with the Clinical Commissioning Group, Hambleton District Council and other stakeholders to review the Council’s proposals for redevelopment of the wider site.

“Unfortunately the proposed scheme was unaffordable from an NHS perspective.

“The district council made an offer to purchase the site, however we are unable to accept offers below market value as this would not be in the interests of achieving the best value for the NHS.”

Janet Probert, Chief Officer of NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “The CCG previously looked at options for the redevelopment of the Lambert Hospital site prior to transferring it back to NHS property Services who own the property. We were disappointed that we were unable to come up with an affordable solution.

“The CCG has recently facilitated discussions between Hambleton District Council and NHS Property Services regarding the future of the Lambert Hospital site.

“We are very disappointed that an affordable community solution could not be made for the Lambert Hospital site.

“As the CCG does not own the hospital site, we are unable to accept or reject any offer to purchase the site.”