Page last updated at 17:38 GMT, Thursday, 6 September 2012 18:38 UK

Backbench MPs urge support for 'vital' community hospitals

Backbench MPs from all parties have urged the government to value community hospitals as a key part of the NHS.

Opening the backbench business debate on 6 September 2012, Dr Sarah Wollaston said more GPs needed to be trained and a greater recognition promoted of the value of community hospitals.

Dr Wollaston, a former GP, told MPs: "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."

Dr Wollaston added that 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.

The motion called on the government to commission a comprehensive database of the more than 300 community hospitals in the UK, including their ownership and current roles.

Conservative MP Dr Phillip Lee 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."

Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Tom Blenkinsop, told MPs that community hospitals were particularly important in rural constituencies like his.

He said: "I hope that the minister takes urgent action to address the problems faced by district, general and community hospitals - commissioning a database outlining what they do, as well as providing trusts with the funds they need to secure the future of these hospitals."

Liberal Democrat Tessa Munt used her contribution to highlight the "excellent" work of the Shepton Mallet Community Hospital, despite a number of the buildings being "substandard due to serious under-investment over a period of time".

Responding to the debate on behalf of the government, new Health Minister Anna Soubry said she could not promise funding for a comprehensive database of community hospitals.

But Ms Soubry said she would "re-look" at the decision to stop funding for the database in light of the "powerful case" made by Dr Sarah Wollaston.

She added: "The government has taken the steps to secure the assets of community hospitals and make sure they are used for the benefits of their community."


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