MPs: community hospitals are 'key to NHS'
Community hospitals should be valued by the NHS as a key part of the NHS, the government has been told.
Sarah Wollaston, leading a backbench debate on the sectors, said more GPs needed to be trained and a greater recognition promoted of the value of community hospitals.
She said too many new doctors were trained in acute specialties but that the reality of demographics would see an increased need for general practitioners in the community.
Dr Wollaston, a former GP, said community hospitals were a vital part of the system for care in the community and helping people to stay in their own homes.
A cross-party motion urged ministers to create a comprehensive database of community hospitals, their ownership and current roles.
Opening the debate, Totnes MP Dr Wollaston said: “This is a call to arms for people listening that if you value your community hospital, let your GPs know, let your commissioners know, let HealthWatch know, let your local health and wellbeing boards know.
“If we want them to be treasuring the community hospitals, as we all do, we need them to be making that very clear.”
Conservative Phillip Lee (Bracknell) said he not met anybody in the medical profession who did not support the principle of consolidation of acute and surgical services and the provision of chronic care in community settings.
He said: “The reality is that acute and medical surgical care is becoming increasingly complex and increasingly expensive to deliver and in particular increasingly difficult to staff. It is just clearly not possible on every district general site in the country.
“We are beginning to see the realities of this, there is a consolidation of services ongoing in the south of London, it’s politically very sensitive I gather, but it’s going to happen so everybody needs to wake up to that.”
He added: “I think this is actually a positive move.”
Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne said Labour would like to see more community hospitals.
He said: “We continue to be committed to community hospitals where they represent the best solution for local communities.
“Community hospitals can be that vital step between social care and acute care and I think we would look to potentially develop them further.
“For instance, it may be possible for GP or dentistry services to be offered in more community hospitals and that could be the difference between making some of them that are marginally viable, more viable in future and should be explored.”
Mr Gwynne said the government’s NHS reorganisation, scrapping primary care trusts, meant there was “real danger that the role of community hospitals could be overlooked”.
He added: “There are further issues which we should bear in mind about the possibility of creeping privatisation, something we at least are concerned about.”
Mr Gwynne expressed concern about the motion’s call for community hospitals to be given “greater freedom to explore different ownership models” and said Labour would abstain.
“We certainly need more details on any parameters before agreeing to something like that,” he said.
New health minister Anna Soubry said PCT properties - including community hospitals - could be transferred to other NHS providers.
There were safeguards in place so that the new owners could not simply sell off the property for a quick profit, she added.
NHS Property Services Limited would take on the remaining PCT estate with a key objective being “to provide clean, safe and cost-effective buildings for use by community and primary care services”.
She said: “Any community hospital building that is taken on by this company will be well looked after.
“Local clinicians will decide how those estates are used, whether new buildings are built or existing ones are closed will be up to them, as will all decisions about local patient services.”
The transfer of properties from PCTs to NHS providers or NHS Property Services will take place on 31 March next year.
Ms Soubry said: “There is no question of useful NHS properties being sold to or transferred to organisations outside the NHS.”
The motion was passed without a vote.