Devon has lost 493 community hospital beds since 2010, two-thirds of the total, and more than one in 10 of all hospital beds. In the same period, the population of Devon has risen and the number of elderly is up by almost a quarter.
Edward Oldfield www.devonlive.com
The Health Secretary has asked a team of independent experts to review plans to close Teignmouth Hospital, the first built for the NHS after it was founded 73 years ago.
She described the new review ordered by Secretary of State for Health Sajid Javid as “a fantastic step in the right direction” for local healthcare.
It is unlikely that the study will see the closure plans scrapped, but it could force Devon NHS to re-run consultation over its plans for a shake-up of services in south Devon.
That will give opponents another chance to argue the case to keep rehabilitation beds in the town.
Campaigners have been fighting the changes, which would see beds closed and services moved from the ageing buildings in Mill Lane to Dawlish Hospital, and a new £8million health centre in the town centre.
Campaigners say planners for the clinical commissioning group, which runs the NHS in Devon, have failed to prove the benefits of the move to rely on home care in the community.
They have called for a fundamental review of the policy shift across the NHS to move services out of community hospitals.
They say Devon has lost 493 community hospital beds since 2010, two-thirds of the total, and more than one in 10 of all hospital beds. In the same period, the population of Devon has risen and the number of elderly is up by almost a quarter.
Conservative MP Ms Morris – whose Newton Abbot constituency covers Teignmouth – said the review was a “vindication for those who have quite rightly raised concerns about the way in which the decision to close Teignmouth Hospital was reached”.
She said that if the review finds the changes are not in the best interests of the population, the panel is likely to ask for the consultation to be re-run, rather than halt the whole process.
The MP added: “However, this would therefore be an opportunity to reaffirm strongly the case for both keeping Teignmouth Hospital open and holding the CCG to account, ensuring they actually take into account and reassess the full health needs of the local community, especially post-Covid.”
She said if the consultation is re-run, the CCG should take into account the impact of Covid, review plans for home-based care, and run a separate consultation on the hospital closure.
Ms Morris said: “The reality is that whilst home-based care can often be most beneficial, it can also be unachievable due to both the healthcare needs of an individual and a limit on resources. Having rehabilitation beds at Teignmouth made sense for the community.”
The Devon group Save Our Hospital Services said in December, when the issue was first discussed at the county council’s health scrutiny committee: “County-wide as well as local campaigners are appalled by the way the public’s voice and all the evidence contrary to the CCG’s assertions has been completely ignored. Even worse, all this is planned to happen in the middle of the worst health crisis in the world for 100 years, when hospital beds for recuperation are desperately needed.”
A petition set up a year ago on Change.org under the title ‘Hands Off Teignmouth Hospital’, has been supported by more than 1,000 people.
It says: “The Hospital has been under threat of closure for three years. Local people have fought desperately to keep it. We need the in-patient beds, the health care services in the heart of town, and the facilities we have paid for through our fund-raising.
“During the pandemic, community hospitals have been used to help patients recover from the virus. But instead of bringing our hospital beds back into service, our local Clinical Commissioning Group is pushing ahead with its closure plans.
“The community deserves a new GP surgery. But we also need our hospital, owned and run by the NHS.”
The CCG has agreed proposals which would see community clinics moved to a new health and wellbeing centre, and specialist outpatient clinics and day case procedures move to Dawlish Hospital. It reversed a decision to establish 12 rehabilitation beds at the community hospital.
In March, the county council’s health committee reconsidered the plans and decided they were unhappy with the lack of consultation over the future of the site, which is controlled by the Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust.
The councillors asked the then Health Secretary Matt Hancock for a review.
Now, his successor Mr Javid has asked the Independent Reconfiguration Panel to assess the proposals.
Mr Javid told the county council he wants a report back by the middle of December.
Under the current plans, with no services left to be commissioned out of the existing hospital site, it would then be up to the Torbay and South Devon trust to determine its future.
A sale to reinvest finance in local NHS services is expected to be the most likely outcome.
A spokesperson for NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We’re aware of the referral to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP). We look forward to working with the IRP as they gather the information they need to make their recommendation to the Secretary of State.”