Building work has begun at Okehampton Hospital as part of a £1 million investment into the hospital.

NHS Property has confirmed that around £1 million is being invested in the hospital and builders are currently working on roof and floor renovations.

The work is expected to be completed within the next six months.

This news follows the recent uproar caused when the NHSPS removed the kitchen equipment from the premises, The NHSPS has now said the kitchen space was cleared to allow the renovation work to take place and that does not mean that the kitchen facilities will not be replaced in the future.

A spokesperson for NHS Property Services said: “Food provision across Devon has changed since the hospital at Okehampton was built and has been prepared off-site since around 2015.

“The previous kitchen space has recently been cleared of the remaining utilities including trolleys, fridges, and tea machines, to allow for the relocation of Royal Devon University community nurses and admin teams while NHSPS undertake capital works. This is part of  a £1m programme of works NHSPS has approved for Okehampton Hospital.

“The removal of the remaining free-standing utilities does not prevent the kitchen being reinstated, should this be required at a later date.”

The news has delighted members of the community who have been campaigning for the reopening of the hospital beds.

Jan Goffey, Okehampton Hamlets Parish councillor and former Okehampton mayor, said: “I am sure the whole community will be relieved that NHS Property Services Ltd. spending such a large amount of money should mean our hospital is safe for the foreseeable future. I am relieved to see that they do not rule out the reprovisioning of a kitchen when - not if! - we get our community beds back. In the meantime, any NHS usage of the space is welcomed.”

The NHSPS has also reassured members of the community that the removal of the kitchen facilities will not affect food preparation in the hospital as food has been prepared off-site since 2015 and the kitchen unused since 2017 when the Integrated Care Board (ICB) closed the hospital wards.

Mark Wooding, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Central Devon, said: “It is of course welcome to hear they are investing £1 million in the hospital. If this is as a prelude to reopening the dormant wards then the whole community will be relieved. What we want to hear is that the wards will reopen and a timetable for when they will begin to meet the health care needs of Okehampton residents.

“I look forward to seeing more detail, but I would still encourage all local residents to attend the public meeting on Friday 12th April.”

Mel Stride, MP for Central Devon and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, added: “I know the future of the ward has been a concern for many residents in Okehampton.

“My meeting was an opportunity to get everyone around the table to discuss possible options and accelerate the work.

“I was very pleased to see the announcement from NHS Property Services of a £1 million investment into the hospital and the ongoing working repairs to the roof.

“Progress also continues to be made on current and potential future Okehampton outpatient clinics. 

“Further local working meetings including representation from the Town Council are now being planned and will be held on a regular basis, so that options for the future of the redundant ward can be identified and viable proposals worked up.”

There were also fears among the community that the NHSPS had boarded up some of the windows, but it has now confirmed that no external windows have been boarded and only a few internal windows to prevent dust contamination while work is ongoing. This, it says, is standard industry practice.