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Community Hospitals

Volume 650: debated on Tuesday 27 November 2018

Community healthcare plays a vital role in helping people stay independent and healthy. Last week, the Prime Minister set out a major new investment in primary and community healthcare worth £3.5 billion a year by 2023-24.

I am extremely grateful that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State came down to East Devon on his first visit outside London. He was able to visit the health and wellbeing hub that we have created in Budleigh Salterton, learn about the beds that we have kept in Sidmouth and Exmouth, and see Ottery St Mary Hospital. Will the Minister instruct all her officials to work collectively with us and the local community in Ottery St Mary to ensure that the hospital has a great future and fits in with the rest of local healthcare provision?

First, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his elegant Movember facial decoration. I very much recommend that he keeps it.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was delighted to visit the East Devon constituency recently, where he was impressed by the work at some of the existing community hospitals and care hubs and discussed with Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust how it will work on a sustainable future for the constituency’s community hospital in Ottery St Mary.

Since the Department says that it likes community hospitals, why are services and wards closing at the Richardson in Barnard Castle?

We know that patients prefer to be treated in their local area, which is much better for preventing hospital admission and getting people out of hospital for longer. However, such clinical decisions must be taken at a local level in consultation with local people.

Dartmouth has lost its much-loved community hospital. Unfortunately, that loss has been compounded by the closure of River View nursing home, which had been due to house some replacement facilities. The total loss of community beds in isolated coastal communities such as Dartmouth is causing a collapse of trust in such programmes. Will the Minister meet me to discuss the situation in Dartmouth and the loss of nursing home and community beds?

I will of course meet my hon. Friend. She is right that we need to keep such valuable local resources right in the community, where they are most needed and where they keep people out of acute hospital services and surrounded by their friends and family.

The usage of Caithness General Hospital in Wick in my constituency is way below what it was originally designed for, causing my constituents great anxiety if they have to travel over 200 miles to Inverness and back. Mr Speaker, you will tell me that such matters are devolved, so will the Government share best practice on community hospitals with the Scottish Government and NHS Highland?

I am happy to work with our colleagues in Scotland to push forward best practice in helping to support community facilities and to ensure that they are investing in facilities at the heart of people’s local areas, which is where they are needed.

Wantage Community Hospital was built and opened by the local community in 1927, but it has been closed for two years. Moves are afoot to improve both our local health centre and health facilities in Didcot, but all that must be joined up and the community needs an answer. Will the Minister use her power to convene a meeting of local stakeholders and her officials to find a way through the maze and a future for our hospital?

I am always happy to speak to my right hon. Friend about such things. I understand that the intention is now to move to a more place-based approach to health and care planning in his local area, but all such changes are subject to consultation.

I will be honest, I am confused. We have heard the Minister say several times that community approaches are important, but our walk-in centre in Eastham is yet again being threatened with closure. Which is it—do this Tory Government want crowded A&Es or proper walk-in centres that will prevent people from unnecessarily ending up at A&E?

I do not think I can make it any clearer: this Government are committed to providing community services right where people need them, and we are putting our money where our mouth is. Last week, the Prime Minister announced a major new investment in primary and community healthcare of £3.5 billion.