Over the last few years, I have made my position on the closure of Teignmouth Hospital clear, especially when it comes to the decision making processes involved and the implications for health and care provision in Teignmouth and across the wider South Devon footprint.
First of all, as I have previously put on record, the new hub at Teignmouth bringing together some of the GP practices, the integrated services team, and the voluntary sector, is the right way forward. Our local primary care team are literally world leading exemplars of how to integrate services. However, this consultation process has been about much more than that. It’s about the adequacy of that provision to cover residents needs more broadly and the future of Teignmouth Hospital. The CCG decision making process does not adequately address all of this.
The hub cannot replace, indeed it doesn’t intend to replace, every service currently provided at Teignmouth Hospital. While some of those services are being relocated to Dawlish, there is insufficient evidence that this new arrangement will enable local people to not only retain the services they have historically enjoyed but address the lack of nursing beds in the community. We are an integrated care system and the needs of the care sector must be taken into account. Closing Teignmouth Hospital cannot and must not be an automatic consequence of establishing the new hub.
Devon County Council have a key role in all this. Its Health & Adult Care Scrutiny Committee has to be consulted and is the only body that, if not satisfied, can refer the matter to the Secretary of State for Health. I do not have that power as the MP. On 26th January, that committee decided to refer the modernising health & care services in Teignmouth and Dawlish plan “informally” to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, the body which advises the Secretary of State on any issue formally referred to him, to seek their views. A proposal put to the meeting to “formally” refer the review was defeated. That was a mistake in my view. A formal referral would have effectively been a referral direct to the Secretary of State.
The Committee did however explicitly raise concerns about the sufficiency and quality of intermediate rehabilitation care and community care services in the area and whether the interest of health services was best served by the CCG’s proposals, something which I have also raised. They have asked for evidence as to the efficacy and adequacy of the current provision. This would seem to me to be a “must” if the CCG are to persuade anybody that their plan is sound. Because the referral is informal there is however no obligation on the CCG to stop and take stock of what has been said – the community doesn’t think the plan works! I would like to think good governance and good manners would make them stop and think until after the Reconfiguration Panel have given a view. I shall certainly be asking them to do just that!
The Independent Reconfiguration Panel are clear about what constitutes informal advice and who can request it. Full guidance on this can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/independent-reconfiguration-panel/about with 4th link in the ‘our processes’ section.
I will be writing once again to the Secretary of State for Health & Social Care to remind him of the commitment he made previously about the vital role community hospitals play, especially in rural communities, and the need to keep them operational. I will make the case again that closing Teignmouth Hospital is not in the best interests of our local health and care economy. Long Covid will make the case even more strongly than Covid did. We need beds for recovery, rehabilitation and convalescence. This cannot all be delivered at home.
As always, if you would like to book a surgery call to discuss any issues you may have, please call my office on 01626 368277 to arrange an appointment.