THE battle to save the historic Teignmouth Hospital continues after Devon County Councillors voted unanimously to start the process of referring the hospital closure to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

The vote was based on a task-force report presented to the committee which detailed the concerns about the potential impact of the planned closure on the community and wider local healthcare provision.

The report also suggested the idea of the hospital site being purchased and developed for the benefit of the community.

Before the issue is referred to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the proposals will be sent back to the NHS for a response.

Campaigners staged a demonstration outside County Hall before giving evidence to the County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee.

Teignmouth Hospital, the first NHS hospital to be built in the country in the 1950s, has been under threat of closure since 2018 with a new £8m health centre planned for the town.

Price estimates for the centre now stand at around £20m.

Issues put forward against the closure plan revolved around costs, bed space and delivery of care. Cllr Chris Clarence noted that pressure on local NHS services was only going to increase.

Cllr Clarence said: ‘The government has asked us to up our game and build yet more houses than ever before. So if we’re going to build all these houses, how are we going to look after everybody in the NHS system when we’re told we have an ever-raging population? Not by closing hospitals, when we’ve heard that Newton Abbot Hospital and Dawlish Hospital have no spare bed capacity already.’

Geralyn Arthurs, a campaigner from the Friends of Teignmouth Hospital, said: ‘There is no cost benefit to this proposal and what they are doing is actually more expensive. Secondly, the model of care actually does not do what they claim it does.’

Cllr Martin Wrigley, the Deputy Chair of the Scrutiny Committee has long advocated against the plans to shut the hospital alongside Cllr David Cox.

On the vote, Cllr Cox said: ‘I’m very pleased with the result. This is great news for the people of Teignmouth and surrounding areas who have campaigned hard for the last four years. I hope this shows that there is light at the end of the tunnel.’

Cllr Wrigley said: ‘This is incredible news. It says very strongly that something needs to change in the proposals to make it work for people.’

Speaking on the closure plans, he added: ‘It just doesn’t add up. The question we were addressing was whether is this in the long-term interests of the health service for the area.

However you look at it, you’ve got to think about how this will cope with situations in some years’ time, beyond what is currently envisaged. To me, it’s clear that if you build a new centre that has effectively no space to expand; come the point when you need to expand, you can’t.’

Since the original plans were tabled in 2018, Cllr Wrigley contended that times had changed: ‘The project they’re trying to do has expanded in cost beyond any belief or expectation. I think it has left a feeling that times have changed and we need to reconsider.

‘We live in a different time now and it doesn’t look right as it stands today, so we need to have it reconsidered.’

However, the odds are not stacked in Teignmouth Hospital’s favour. No referral to the Secretary of State has ever seen a closure overturned. But campaigners are willing to try.

Geralyn said: ‘No hospital has ever had two referrals to the Secretary of State, and we will be entering into an election next year, so it will be a very stupid decision for Secretary of State to close Teignmouth Hospital.’

Martin added: ‘I think it’s a really good result, and whichever way it goes, we can get something better than we had going into it before we started this review and that makes it all worthwhile.’