Tribute has been paid this week to the volunteer supporters who keep local community hospitals going by contributing millions of charitable donations.

Heather Penwarden, chair of Honiton Hospital & Community League of Friends, stressed the value of community hospitals like those in Honiton, Seaton, Ottery and Axminster and encouraged more people to join the voluntary groups that support them.

Heather said this week: “During this time of the Covid-19 pandemic much has been said, and quite rightly so, in praise of our NHS hospitals and staff.

“I would just like to draw attention to all the community hospitals we have in the South West and to the staff working from them, either on local medical wards, outreach renal dialysis units, outpatient clinics, emergency medical units or supporting patients in their own homes sometimes under the most challenging of circumstances.”

Heather said that the majority of our health and care was delivered within a local community setting with only the very sick having to be admitted to a district general hospital.

“These integrated community health and care services work hard to prevent unnecessary admissions to our DGHs and also prepare the way for discharge care and support when a patient no longer requires acute care,” Heather explained.

“All this vital work has for the most part carried on through this pandemic and provides an essential part of the whole health and care service we receive from the NHS.”

In order to deliver this care there has to be effective teamwork with NHS, Social Services, Hospiscare, GP practices, local care homes and care agencies and voluntary agencies all pulling together to offer a seamless service.

Most community hospitals will have a charitable organisation or League of Friends with volunteers attached who work tirelessly to support and enhance the care provided from their own hospital. Over the generations these local charities have contributed millions of pounds to the local health and care economy often purchasing the land and even financing the building of these hospitals.

Heather said: “League of Friends groups have weathered the storms of many a health care reform and in recent years some have seen the closure of maternity and medical beds. Despite these changes most remain steadfast to a passionate belief in ‘local care for local people’ and now not only support their hospitals but the wider care provided within their own communities.

She added: “My own League of Friends has recently donated over £150,000 to fund an Admiral Nurse, a specialist nurse supporting families who care for someone with dementia, along with additional funds to aid a new support group for parents of young people with mental health problems, and a qualified music therapist to work within our care homes.

“Those of us who live in one of our smaller market towns or rural communities will know the value of these community hospitals and all the care carried out from them. If you wish to support yours then just look up your League of Friends who rely solely on donations to carry out their often quiet and unsung but vital work.”