DAVID Sandbach, the former chief executive of the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford, has produced a report making the case for a bigger role for community hospitals like the one in Ludlow.

“Some people in the local NHS management community believe community hospitals are a drag on local NHS resources,” he says.

“Many people in the local NHS management seem to have a dislike for community hospital in-patient beds.

“This is very unfortunate because small community hospitals can be repurposed to offer urgent sub-acute clinical services for conditions which can be safely managed away from mainstream acute services, thereby reducing pressure and improving overall performance.

“The fact is, both types of in-patient beds have a role to play in providing good quality clinical care for the people living in rural areas who need urgent treatment services.

“The introduction of a digital technology platform using tried and tested techniques makes the integration of community hospital urgent care services with acute hospital urgent care services a safe very viable proposition.

“This clinical model has been known in other parts of the world for some considerable time.

“Four years ago, I saw a working example of an acute hospital site in Cairns, Queensland, supporting a community hospital site 80 kilometres away when I made a visit to a small hospital facility in Mossman, Queensland.

“The Mossman Community Hospital had video conferencing facilities in the A&E area, outpatient area and on both of the wards in the hospital (one medical and one geriatric).

“The fact is, living in rural parts of Shropshire should not be seen as a handicap to accessing modern urgent care services, including urgent in-patient services at a distance from the main sites in Shrewsbury and Telford.”