Matt Hancock to have final say on hospital ‘closure’ plan

The final decision over the future of proposals that would effectively close Teignmouth Hospital will be made by the Health Secretary.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

Devon County Council’s health and adult care scrutiny committee last week voted overwhelmingly to refer the decision made last December by the Devon CCG Governing Body to the Secretary of State.

The Devon CCG had been satisfied that the case had been made to back proposals for moving services away from Teignmouth Community Hospital, the first NHS purpose built hospital back in 1954, given that a new £8m Health and Wellbeing Centre is due to be built in the heart of Teignmouth.

But last Thursday’s scrutiny meeting saw councillors agree that they were not satisfied with the adequacy of the consultation and referred the final decision over the proposals to Matt Hancock to make.

Dr Paul Johnson, clinical chair of the Devon CCG, said that the decision was based around what is needed from the health system and that they were trying to determine the best thing for the resources and the population that they have.

He added: “It may not be the result that other people think we should have. I’m not driven by bricks and mortar but whether the buildings enable people and staff to do their job. I do think the health and wellbeing centre is long overdue and the more we can integrate with other services, the better and it is an opportunity too good to miss.”

But councillors raised concerns over both the proposed changes to health services in the area, and the fashion and manner of the consultation over the proposals, with Cllr David Cox saying that the CCG consultation was flawed as they decided what they wanted to do, and set the questions to get the answers they wanted.

Cllr Alistair Dewhirst added: “The hospital has an essential place at the heart of the community and this is the last throw of the dice. To allow the hospital to just close would be seen as a blot of your record.

“The whole of the community is against the closure, whatever the consultation says. Residents are afraid of being sent to care homes many miles away if they need to be discharged from hospital, angry at the loss of facilities, they don’t know where to turn due to the lack of a MIU, and they cannot understand why a functioning hospital at the heart of the community should be closed at a time of national crisis when hospital beds are needed more than ever.”

Teignmouth Hospital (Image: Andy Styles)

Cllr Sylvia Russell, who represents the Teignmouth ward, added that ever since the proposals back in 2016 came forward, the ‘sword of Damocles’ has been hanging over the town.

She added: “There is still a cloud over the future of the hospital and I think it is the right thing to do. We owe the people of Teignmouth to show we have done everything we can to support their view that the hospital should be retained. I want them to know we have done all we can to keep the hospital open and the campaigners cannot be ignored and we have to stay with them until the end of the road.”

She also said that as the building is owned by the Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust and not the CCG, and there has been no indication from them as to what any outcome over the future of the building would be, there was a flaw in that the wording of the consultation over the suggesting ‘it was likely to be sold off’.

Cllr Martin Shaw added: “They have left the hospital as a building without a purpose. It is a pre-pandemic proposal and doggedly pursued even though the pandemic has changed this massively,” while Cllr Jeremy Yabsley added: “We do need a re-evaluation of hospital beds post-covid.”

Cllr Hilary Ackland, acting chairman of the committee, put forward her motion calling for the decision to be referred to the Secretary of State.

It said: “This Committee notes that the actions of the Devon Clinical Commissioning Group to remove services from Teignmouth Community Hospital when the Wellbeing Centre is ready for use will result in the Teignmouth Community Hospital becoming an empty building, and as the Hospital sits within the Torbay and South Devon Foundation Trust’s estate, no consultation has taken place by the Trust with the Teignmouth area residents on the future of the hospital.

“Therefore, as no consultation process has been undertaken or even suggested by the Trust with respect to the future of the Hospital this part of the substantial change be referred to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on the grounds that Scrutiny is not satisfied with the adequacy of the consultation and this Scrutiny Committee has not been consulted, and it is not satisfied that the reasons given for not carrying out consultation are adequate.”

Save Teignmouth Hospital Rally, Teignmouth Triangle, in June (Image: Andy Styles)

Councillors voted by 12 votes to two in favour of referring the final decision to the Health Secretary.

The decision, which had been backed by the CCG Board in December, was to

  • approve the move of the most frequently used community clinics from Teignmouth Community Hospital to the new Health and Wellbeing Centre
  • approve the move of specialist outpatient clinics, except ear nose and throat clinics and specialist orthopaedic clinics, from Teignmouth Community Hospital to Dawlish Community Hospital, four miles away
  • approve the move of day case procedures from Teignmouth Community Hospital to Dawlish Community Hospital
  • continue with a model of community-based intermediate care, reversing the decision to establish 12 rehabilitation beds at Teignmouth Community Hospital
  • approve the move of specialist ear, nose and throat clinics and specialist orthopaedic clinics to the Health and Wellbeing Centre
  • request Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust consider in detail the suggestions put forward for additional services at the Health and Wellbeing Centre
  • request Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust consider providing secondary office space at Dawlish Community Hospital for physiotherapists, occupational therapists and district nurses
  • request Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust work with Teignbridge District Council to mitigate parking issues for staff and patients as far as possible, and to work to further support and enhance the development of community transport to the hospital sites

The new £8million Health and Wellbeing Centre is to be built by Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust in the heart of Teignmouth and is due to open in 2022, subject to planning permission, with an application submitted this month, but the principle of the development was not part of the consultation as it has already been agreed.

It will house GPs from Teignmouth’s larger practice, Channel View Medical Group, the health and wellbeing team and Volunteering in Health, and subject to the decision by the Governing Body, the most frequently used community clinics – physiotherapy, podiatry and audiology – would also move to the Health and Wellbeing Centre, along with specialist ear, nose and throat and specialist orthopaedic clinics.

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