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Community hospitals

Volume 745: debated on Monday 19 February 2024

The petition of residents of Axe Valley in the Tiverton and Honiton constituency,

Declares that community hospitals play a vital role supporting health and wellbeing in rural communities; further that the hospital in Seaton was built with active support and fundraising efforts by residents across the Axe Valley; and further that plans to turn the wing of the hospital building over to NHS Property Services puts the future viability of the hospital at risk.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to take into account the concerns of petitioners and take action to return the facility to the local community, so it can be repurposed to provide better care for those living in the area.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Richard Foord, Official Report, 16 January 2024; Vol. 743, c. 800.]


Observations from The Minister for Health and Secondary Care (Andrew Stephenson):

The Government are aware that the NHS Devon integrated care board (ICB) is seeking to review its future requirements for community hospitals. We understand that the building of Seaton Hospital in 1988 was only possible with significant public fund-raising and that the continued availability of healthcare services delivered in community hospitals are strongly valued by the communities they serve. However, they also need to be able to adapt to changing clinical needs.

Between 2015 and 2017, NHS Devon clinical commissioning group (now the ICB) undertook a review of community services which resulted in the transfer of ownership of the North Devon community hospitals estate, including Seaton Hospital, to NHS Property Services. At the same time the service delivery model was changed, resulting in a reduced requirement for community hospital beds and leading to some properties such as Seaton being significantly underutilised.

The ICB is responsible for meeting the costs of continuing to run this operational property and in seeking to address its significant financial challenges is now considering how best to rationalise its property needs.

Ultimately, whilst the long-term healthcare commissioning requirements for Seaton Hospital is for the ICB to determine, the operational costs of running the property have to be paid for and therefore a long-term sustainable use must be established. The ICB is currently working closely in partnership with NHS Property Services to identify and evaluate suitable options to achieve this objective. Whilst the property remains an operational healthcare facility, it is not surplus to commissioning requirements and there are no current plans to sell the facility.

The Government believe that ICBs are best placed to make decisions on commissioning services for their communities, working with local authorities, stakeholders and local populations to meet people’s needs.