The news that a rehabilitation ward at Teignmouth Hospital will probably never reopen has been called ‘symbolic of the current state of the health service’.
The minor injuries unit and X-ray department at the hospital moved to Dawlish in January 2016 as part of proposals aimed at securing the long-term future of the two community hospitals.
As part of the relocation package, the former recuperation ward at Teignmouth Hospital was due to change into a ‘therapy-led rehabilitation’ unit – but the ward remains empty 18 months later.
Teignmouth Hospital was the first purpose built hospital constructed by the new NHS in 1954.
Health bosses have now admitted that it is possible that the ward may remain closed indefinitely as demand for the beds have been limited and that resourced could be better used elsewhere.
The shock news has been criticised by councillors and the hospital’s league of friends who say the closure is a betrayal of the people of Teignmouth.
It comes as health and social care staff, along with representatives from the voluntary sector, are inviting local residents to join them this weekend on Saturday to celebrate the opening of a new information centre at Teignmouth Hospital.
Richard Younger-Ross, former Devon County Councillor, said: “Teignmouth Hospital was the first purpose-built hospital in the country and was symbolic of the health service. Now the closure of wards is symbolic of the current state of the health service.
“Our local health authority promised in the public consolation that the hospital ward at Teignmouth Hospital would reopen. If the ward does not reopen then that is a broken promise and a betrayal of the people of Teignmouth. We do not have enough bed space not to reopen Teignmouth is madness.
“Mrs May now says she will ‘listen’ to other views, she needs to and she should start by listening to the people of Teignmouth and tell her Health Secretary to reopen the ward at Teignmouth Hospital, as her Health Service promised.”
Cllr Alison Eden added: “Is anybody surprised to hear that the rehab wards may never reopen? Is anybody surprised that this news comes AFTER a general election not before one? If we were investing as needed in home based care with specialist attention allowing people to recover in their own homes, then maybe cutting staffed rehab beds would be acceptable. But show me the money.”
The Teignmouth Hospital League of Friends have been campaigning for the reopening of the ward and have appealed to the CCG to clarify exactly what the situation is and has called on them not to renege on their promises that they made.
A South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group spokesman said: “The phased implementation of the coastal consultation proposals has improved care to local people. The new health and wellbeing team, including local GPs, has supported many more people out of hospital, in or near their own homes. The success of intermediate care staff in particular has meant that there has been limited demand for rehabilitation beds and when needed patients have received this short term support in local nursing or care homes.
“As with each stage of the implementation process we are reviewing whether in the light of this experience, establishing a 12 bed rehabilitation ward in Teignmouth is the best way of meeting the needs of our coastal communities and of using our finite resources. If the view is reached that the beds are not needed, further formal consultation will take place and we expect a decision to be made over the summer months.”
The changes back in 2016 were based initially on a decline in the number of people using Teignmouth’s MIU with the aim that the merger would create an ‘enhanced service’ with longer opening hours in Dawlish, joining the area’s two minor injury units and what they said were improvements to health and care service taking place across Dawlish and Teignmouth.
In September 2016, a £200,000 investment programme took place at Teignmouth Hospital, creating additional clinical rooms.
Barton Surgery in Dawlish expanded its site in Barton Terrace with the new four-storey surgery extension providing more rooms, as well as training and meeting areas for staff.
When complete, the site of the only GP practice in the town will comprise of the surgery and the community hospital, and will provide a health hub with access to the full range of services including minor injuries, out of hours care, primary care, pharmacy and bed-based care.
The new Coastal Information Centre sits within the Health and Wellbeing Centre based at Teignmouth Hospital. The information centre enables local residents to access the wide range of support, activities and information that’s available in the area to support them to live their lives to the full and be as independent as possible. The centre is manned by our local partner ‘Volunteering in Health’.
Richard Baker, General Manager of the Coastal Locality for Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Since the consultation on community services back in 2015 there have been a number of developments including the setting up of intermediate care teams and wellbeing co-ordinators who are supporting more people to be able to independent and at home.
“The information centre is part of a partnership with voluntary groups that provides a comfortable place for people to come and relax whilst finding out more about a whole range of services and activities going on in the Coastal area. So whether you want to find out about local yoga groups, services provided by GP surgeries or want to find out about getting services at home and a whole lot more you will be able to find out what could suit you.”