THE LONG-RUNNING saga of the future of Teignmouth Hospital could take another turn with a further bid to get the closure decision overturned.

Rule changes over the way such decisions can be referred back to Government for reconsideration mean it is now possible for district councils to take on the mantle.

Previously it had been down to Devon County Council to agree to ask the Secretary of State for Health to look again at the NHS move to shut the historic hospital, the first purpose-built NHS hospital in the country.

Now, Teignbridge Council chairman Cllr Chris Clarance, a vocal supporter, will be proposing a motion for the district authority to refer the closure of Teignmouth Hospital to the Secretary of State for Health itself.

The rule changed on January 31 2024 which allows other bodies, not just Devon County Council, to take such steps.

Cllr Clarance, who has supported campaigners battling to keep the hospital open for many years, says such is the strength of feeling that he has 17 district councillors supporting his move for a Notice of Motion to go before Teignbridge Full Council when it meets on February 27.

His Notice of Motion states that Teignbridge Council wants the issue referred to the Secretary of State for her to examine the case for not closing the hospital.

At the meeting, if two thirds of councillors present vote for a debate, his motion will be discussed followed by a decision on whether to proceed with the referral.

He explained: ‘Nearly a year ago we voted for a debate and then voted unanimously to try and save the hospital but we didn’t have the statutory power then to refer the matter to the Secretary of State which we have now when legislation changed.

‘So now is the time to do what Devon County Council’s committee didn’t want to do despite their own Task and Finish Group recommending to them to do so.’

Cllr Clarance said it was worth noting that Devon County Council’s own task and finish group on the subject had agreed to the referral which, he says, should ‘serve us well’ as evidence that the issue should be referred to the Secretary of State.

‘So something good I believe can be salvaged from the disappointment of that DCC meeting.’

Teignbridge Liberal Democrats are supporting the further referral with a petition running on its website.

It says: ‘Looking at the state of the NHS, the last thing most of us would say is that we have too many hospitals.

‘Devon has an older than average population and a lower than the national average number of hospital beds.

‘The local situation has been confused by the additional need for a new surgery for the local GP surgeries. 

‘For far too long the GPs have been working from old converted residential buildings that are not fit for purpose.

‘The potential new health and wellbeing centre to house the GPs in Teignmouth has been held to ransom on the closing of Teignmouth Hospital, the first purpose-built NHS hospital. 

‘This isn’t right and puts money above health for people around Teignmouth.

‘We won’t give up.’

Teignbridge Council’s full council meeting takes place on Tuesday February 27 at 10am.