Health Minister urged to back local hospitals

MP Neil Parish outside Axminster Hospital

MP Neil Parish outside Axminster Hospital - Credit: Archant

Axminster’s MP seeks assurances over future healthcare provision

Axminster’s MP Neil Parish has been quizzing the Government over the future of healthcare provision in the town.

He asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, George Freeman MP, about the future role of community hospitals in Devon and also made the case for Axminster Hospital’s inpatient beds to reopen.

Mr Parish asked what assessment his department had made of the future role of community hospitals.

Mr Freeman told him: “Community hospitals can play a hugely important role in the 21st-century NHS. The NHS ‘Five Year Forward View’ explicitly recognised the role of smaller hospitals, including community hospitals, as part of the new care models towards which we need to evolve. Specific local commissioning decisions are rightly taken by local clinical commissioning groups, reflecting local need.”

Mr Parish responded: “We have excellent hospitals in Tiverton, Honiton, Axminster and Seaton, and there could be a much greater link between them and the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust. For example, patients could be moved to the community hospital in Axminster after acute operations, thereby creating space at the RD and E and keeping Axminster hospital open with beds, which the population is keen to see.”

Mr Freeman replied: “I pay tribute to my honourable friend for his tireless work on this matter. I know that he recently met the Secretary of State to discuss it and that he has been very active locally and here in Parliament. He is right that local community hospitals can play a key role in supporting patient convalescence, providing particularly good care in the community close to home, which is convenient for elderly patients, and relieving pressure on acute hospital beds.

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“You do not have to take it from me, Mr Speaker; take it from Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England. He recently said: ‘The NHS needs to abandon a fixation with ‘mass centralisation’.”