Neil Parish highlights the value of Community Hospitals and looks at ways to give the community greater involvement

Neil Parish highlights the value of Community Hospitals to rural areas in particular, he highlights work being done at Tiverton Hospital to give the community more say in how the hospital is run.Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) on securing this debate and thank her for doing so. She brings her experience as a doctor, her common sense and some really solid views to the Chamber, and we should listen to her even more.I think it was my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) who described our new Minister as Boadicea. I would welcome her down to Tiverton for a visit to our hospital, but I would rather she took the knives off the chariot as she comes through. Otherwise, we would be delighted to see her.I think it was my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) who made the point about rural constituencies. I am sure that his is bigger than mine, but my constituency covers some 400 square miles. We should remember that community hospitals—I have them in Tiverton, Honiton and Seaton—are essential. We also have, like it or not, an ageing population, both among those living in the area and among those who would love to retire there. Devon is a beautiful county and I very much welcome retired people who come there, but the facilities are of course needed. The point has been made by other hon. Members, but the issue is not just the treatment that elderly patients require; it is also about the time it takes to get to a hospital and the need to get there quite quickly. Distance is a problem for many rural patients, especially elderly patients. I would love to have more bus services, but we cannot have them in rural areas, given the sheer lack of numbers of people who travel by bus. It is essential for us to keep our community hospitals running.I want to talk about one particular hospital and about its management. Dr Frank O’Kelly runs a clinical practice and commissioning service in Tiverton. He works closely with the hospital and is convinced that we need to get much closer to the people when providing services. I will give a bit of history of Tiverton hospital. Until 2006 it was run by a small community-based PCT in mid-Devon with no acute trust. It was at its most productive at this time and was hailed as one of the best in the country. I must declare an interest as in 2008 my granddaughter was born in Tiverton hospital. Since then it has been run by NHS Devon very much from north Devon, and it is not being used to its full potential. That is where Dr O’Kelly has some good ideas.The Tiverton patient-centred care project has been reviewing since February 2012 what is happening and what is to be done to improve the situation at Tiverton hospital, yet it is still not delivering any practical help. There is no doubt that openness and transparency have been the basis of the project, with all the papers published, and five lay members attend the meetings that Dr O’Kelly organises. The league of friends has been hugely supportive, and with Exeter university devised its own questionnaire for the public. The NHS questionnaire achieved about 800 returns while the league of friends survey produced 3,000. Dr Kelly’s idea is to get local people interested in how this service is delivered.I would like the Minister to know the key points that Dr Kelly wants to raise. The idea for Tiverton could be rolled out across the country. His plan is that the whole hospital is recommissioned and a single accountable provider brought in to run the hospital and community services. This could be NHS, private or a social enterprise. The provider would need to have as its only focus the community service and tailoring it to maximise capability.Ultimately, clinicians and organisations running facilities come and go, but the population whom they serve do not. The population are left with time-limited results of those changes, depending on the length of tenure of the organisations. So to refer again to Dr Frank O’Kelly, his advice to the politicians would be to give the population much more power so that commissioners and providers are reminded who the customer really is. For a community hospital, this could take the form of a community governing body to which the providers and commissioners were accountable. I want to emphasise that local people need to have a much more genuine say in how their hospital is run so that they do not feel that they are caught up in a bureaucratic web and cannot put their views forward.Tiverton community hospital is an excellent facility. It is pretty new and it could be used to deliver a great deal more local services to patients who need them. So Minister, please, if you have time, come to Tiverton and see what we are trying to do.| Hansard