IT may not be the end of the fight to save Teignmouth Hospital, campaigners have said.

While Devon County councillors voted against a final referral of the decision to close the hospital, the first NHS hospital to be built in the country, the battle to save it could go on.

Members of the authority’s health and adult care scrutiny committee voted last week not to go back to the Secretary of State for Health over the planned closure of the hospital.

The committee had been looking into the issue for more than six months while the NHS was granted planning permission by Teignbridge Council for a multi-million pound health and wellbeing hub, to include a new home for GPs in the town, on a site in Brunswick Street.

After years of campaigning to keep the historic hospital site open, this final opportunity had a near impossible chance of success as no previous referral of this kind had ever been approved.

With the commaittee’s vote, that avenue through the county council is now dead in the water. The reaction from dedicated supporters has been anger and sadness.

They had turned out in force, again, at County Hall, to continue to show the strength of feeling for the hospital. But this may not be the end as the supporters look at other ways of preventing the closure.

According to Teignmouth county councillor David Cox, there is a chance of putting a Notice of Motion to Teignbridge Council asking members to support the authority’s own referral process to ask the Secretary of State to look at the decision again.

Cllr Cox said: ‘Obviously we were all disappointed and it was sad news but I believe the committee was swayed, not by the arguments put forward against closure but by GPs needing new premises which is undeniable.’

Graham Bond, trustee of the League of Friends of Teignmouth Hospital, said they were ‘extremely disappointed’.

He said: ‘We will continue to fight for Teignmouth Hospital to be retained supporting local councillors and the residents in maintaining this invaluable asset which continues to provide wonderful care daily.’

Speaking at County Hall last week, Susan Cann, a former nurse at Teignmouth Hospital, said: ‘I started in 1954 as a young cadet and was there 36 years. Every day I worked there it was lovely. The patients were good and we just all loved the hospital, it was a lovely place to be.’

‘I think the idea of closing it is absolutely terrible,  a travesty. 

‘We don’t have enough hospitals and they’re pulling all the small ones down. I think the government is just saving money at our expense.’

After the decision, fervent campaigner Geralyn Arthurs said many of the supporters were ‘gutted’.

She said: ‘We have some work to do to get a referral via a different route.’

Long time supporter, Cllr Chris Clarence, independent member and chairman of Teignbridge District Council, spoke at the meeting as a member of the public.

He said: ‘We all know the troubles the main district hospitals are up against. We need more cottage hospital beds to help alleviate these problems.

Disappointed by the decision, he said: ‘It was terrible, not what I was expecting. I was hoping the committee would stick with the original task group’s finding to refer only for them to U-turn.’

Campaigner Viv Wilson said the hospital was an ‘essential’ part of the community.

She argued NHS plans for a new health and wellbeing centre in the town would not meet demand.

She said: ‘The decision to close Teignmouth Hospital is wrong. The hospital is an essential part of the health and wellbeing of that particular part of Devon - their proposal to spend £23m on a health hub, which is not a hospital, just really won’t fit the bill.’

County councillor and member of the health and adult scrutiny committee Cllr Martin Wrigley said: ‘This was a final chance to save Teignmouth Hospital.

‘I don’t think the NHS responded particularly well to the concerns that we raised unanimously last time.’

He described the decision to close ‘cottage’ hospitals was ‘short-sighted’ and will be looked back on as a bad decision.