MAJOR £1m improvements to Fordingbridge Hospital were unveiled on Saturday as health bosses proclaimed Ford Ward is “here to stay”.

New Forest West MP Desmond Swayne officially re-opened Ford Ward, which was closed for six weeks for refurbishment work.

The transformation means the 20-bed unit now houses a new outpatients’ waiting room, kitchen, staff room, patio area, day room, dining area and reception.

A new boiler and hot water system has also been installed along with new heating. A modern telephone and IT system are bringing the hospital into the 21st century.

Mayor of Fordingbridge Malcolm Connolly said he was “astounded by the quality” of the work and that he hoped the new facilities would put “an end to the uncertainty” that has shrouded the ward over the past few years.

He said: “The building work is stateof- the-art and will assist and speed up the recuperation of the patients it serves.

“Over the years there has been doubt about the future of Ford Ward but these fears have now been extinguished. The standard of the building work and the dedication of care that the team is demonstrating are second to none.“Morale is high and the ward is operating to a very high standard.”

A spokesman from the Southern NHS Foundation Trust said: “What is difficult in any NHS organisation is where you put resources.

Putting our resources into creating these facilities sends out a strong message that we are here to stay.

“Ford Ward is a much nicer, bigger space to come into. Our hope is that Fordingbridge Hospital will be able to offer more and more for people in the community so they will not have to go to the bigger hospitals to get their care.”

Ford Ward manager Tracey Aldin said: “We can now provide the best possible standard of care in an environment that can match that.

“This hospital is part of the Fordingbridge community and we are proud of that.”

Fordingbridge Hospital was threatened with closure in 2005 and 2008 sparking the Forest Journal’s Save Our Beds campaign, which secured more than 2,000 names and hundreds of letters of support.

Later in 2007, the troubled ward was closed to new patients following the suspension of three members of staff.

A full investigation into quality of care took place after this with remaining staff redeployed.