Decision has been going back and forth
Teignmouth Hospital’s fate looks to be sealed after councillors decided not to refer NHS plans to close it back to the health secretary.
Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk
The community hospital on Mill Lane, the first to be built by the NHS in 1954, is due to close, with services moving to Dawlish Hospital and a new £8 million health centre in Teignmouth town centre.
Devon County Council’s health and adult care scrutiny committee referred the decision to the health secretary last year, because it was unhappy with the lack of consultation over the hospital’s future.
Sajid Javid then asked panel of independent experts called the IRP to review the situation. It ruled that the NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) consultation was “adequate,” thus paving the way for closure.
However, the IRP also said there were “lessons to be learned for both parties,” adding the NHS must engage with the local community to “determine the future” of the community hospital.
Speaking at a meeting of the committee on Tuesday [21 June], representatives from the NHS defended the “modernisation” plans for healthcare in the town, despite criticism from a number of public speakers and councillors.
Teignbridge District Council vice chairman Chris Clarence called for another referral to the health secretary “on a question of medical service provision in the local community.”
The Tory councillor said: “The majority of you [the committee] are of the same political persuasion as me – a Conservative. How does this possible closure of Teignmouth Hospital look to the local community when our leader Boris Johnson is advocating building more hospitals?
“Yet here we are, the South Devon NHS Trust, considering the closure of one. Let’s hope a referral to the secretary of state triggering an examination by the IRP will lead to the obvious conclusion of retaining Teignmouth Hospital with some beds back in it.”
Campaigners claim community beds are “desperately needed.” A petition signed by over a thousand people urged the NHS to keep the hospital open.
But at this week’s meeting, health leaders said the new integrated care model, which includes aiming to avoid admissions into hospitals where possible, is the “direction of travel we’re going to take across Devon.”
Jo Turl, director of out-of-hospital commissioning, explained: “We can care for four times as many individuals at home, using the same level of staffing, same resources, rather than having those individuals in beds.”
She continued: “We can care for a lot more people by doing it this way, but also the outcomes are better for those individuals as well.”
Councillor Tracy Adams (Labour, Pinhoe & Mincinglake), while saying the plan was “very exciting,” questioned whether tsufficient workers were available to provide care at home, given the current “difficulties of getting any care workers.”
Shelly Machin, system director at Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust, said: We’ve done well with our recruitment into our intermediate care teams, our teams that are providing support in the community, because it is seen as being part of something really quite special.”
Cllr David Cox (Lib Dem) stressed the importance of retaining the hospital, particularly for people who don’t need acute care but can’t be taken home. He said it could be run by the voluntary sector rather the NHS.
He proposed the committee referred the decision to Mr Javid again, saying the closure is “not in the interests of the health service of the area,” but a majority of members voted against.
Instead they agreed to a recommendation which includes noting the progress and outcomes in the NHS report and to “continue to build on the recent progress in working more closely together.”
The NHS will submit a planning application for the new health centre on Brunswick Street at the end of August or in September. It comes after Teignbridge District Council agreed to sell the land to Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust in April.
Speaking when the decision was made, Cllr Richard Keeling (Lib Dem, Chudleigh), the council’s executive member for corporate resources, said: “This has been a positive collaboration with the NHS to provide a modern and accessible health care hub in the centre of a flourishing seaside town; bringing together doctors, surgeries and other care facilities.”
Work is expected to start on the building in early in 2023 and take around 18 months.
The largest of Teignmouth’s two existing GP practices – Channel View Medical Group – will move into the centre when it opens but the other one has decided not to.
In addition, it is planned to be occupied by:
- The health and wellbeing team, comprising community nurses, therapists and social workers
- Community clinics including podiatry, physiotherapy and audiology
- Specialist orthopaedic outpatient clinics and specialist ear nose and throat services
- The voluntary sector in the form of Volunteering in Health
- Potentially one of the existing Teignmouth pharmacies
- Councillors were also told the NHS will engage with the community about the future use of the Teignmouth Hospital site, with no decision made on selling it yet.
It has been designated as an “asset of community value”, meaning the local community will have the right to bid for the building should it be put up for sale.