DoH backtracks on community hospitals

MPs and health leaders have accused the government of dropping an election pledge to build 50 new community hospitals.

The DoH stated in the primary care White Paper, published in January 2006, that it intended to fulfil its 2005 election manifesto promise to develop ‘a new generation of modern NHS community hospitals over a period of five years’.

To make this possible, former health minister Lord Warner said an initial capital investment of £100 million to build, rebuild or refurbish at least 50 community hospitals had been identified (GP, 3 February 2006).

However, last month, in a response to a written parliamentary question from a Conservative MP, health minister Andy Burnham said: ‘There is no target for the number of community hospitals we intend to fund.

‘The intention is to utilise the £750 million capital investment fund announced last July to fund the development and refurbishment of as many community hospitals and facilities as possible.’

According to the pressure group Community Hospitals Acting Nationally Together, 2,000 community hospital beds have been lost since 1999. Twenty-two hospitals have closed and 148 hospitals have suffered or are threatened with cuts or closure.

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