Prime Minister Theresa May has backed retaining cottage hospital beds, such as those lost with the closure of Dartmouth and Kingswear Hospital.

At Prime Minister’s Questions this week, she was asked by Tory backbencher Annie-Marie Trevelyan, with regard to the loss of beds at a hospital in her Berwick-upon-Tweed constituency: “The 12 in-bed provision at Rothbury Community Hospital in my constituency was removed without adequate consultation back in September 2016.

"The Save Rothbury Hospital campaign and I have worked closely together to get transparency on that decision and return the in-bed provision for our vast  and sparsely populated Coquet valley.

“Does the Prime Minister agree that the NHS should be investing in community hospitals, which can provide that low-level nursing for convalescence and palliative care for my constituents and others, and will she support our campaign to get it back?”

Mrs May answered: “My hon friend is absolutely right to be raising this issue on behalf of her constituents in the way that she is.”

She added she would not go into further details on the specifics of the hospital in question, as it was subject to a review which would report to the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

“But,” she said, “on the general point I wholeheartedly agree with her that community hospitals are a vital part of the range of services we want to see in our NHS.”

In a June 2014 debate on the future on healthcare, Andrew George, the Lib Dem MP for St Ives, asked Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt: “The Secretary of State mentioned the importance of integrating secondary and primary care. "He will be aware that the chief executive of NHS England recently addressed the large number of community hospitals with a sword of Damocles hanging over them and whether or not they will continue to exist. He said that that issue should be revisited and, indeed, has argued that community hospitals should be developed and that we should protect that area of care. “Does the Secretary of State believe that the chief executive of NHS England is calling for the retention and reopening of community hospitals?”Mr Hunt responded: “I agree with the new chief executive of NHS England. There is an incredibly important role for community hospitals and, indeed, for smaller hospitals. “He was making the point that it is not always the largest hospitals that have the highest standards. “One reason why the public like smaller hospitals is that they are more personal, and very often the doctors and nurses know people’s names, which makes a difference."They are also closer to people’s homes and easier to get to for relatives wishing to visit people in hospital.”

The Chronicle has asked South Hams MP Sarah Wollaston, who is chairman of the Health Select Committee, for a comment.

We have also asked the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, the Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust and county and district councillor Jonathan Hawkins for comments.