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New NHS chief backs community hospital shake-up

Words: Sam Waddicor
Community hospitals

The new head of the NHS, Simon Stevens, has backed a shake up of care delivery that would see networks of smaller hospitals providing care to patients within their own communities.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Stevens said that a move towards more localised care could provide a better quality of care, particularly for the elderly.

“At the moment, it is too complicated and too fragmented," said Stevens. "If you were starting from scratch you would not design community services like that."

The proposal marks a shift in approach from the large centralised hospitals that typified the Labour government’s target based approach to healthcare. The change could signal a wave of new planning projects either through new hospitals or redevelopments of current facilities.

Centre for Sustainable Healthcare director Rachel Stancliffe told The Planner she supported the idea of designing systems around people's needs but felt more research was needed into what exactly needed changing and how the NHS might go about doing that. Stancliffe said planners had a role to play in any changes that might come, particularly as transport infrastructure and the efficiency of buildings could become key issues. She also thought it was important that planners were involved early in the process so that they could give their input when services were being designed.

A source from NHS England emphasised, however, that this shift would not mean that there would be no further closures to local hospitals - but simply that Stevens wanted to see hospitals play a greater role in moving services into the community.