THIS government has gone out of its way to protect and promote the NHS.
The increasing developments in medical technology and the pressures of an aging population have been met by the coalition's commitment to ring fence the NHS budget and, by 2015, spending on health will have risen by £12.7 billion.
Despite the high standard of care and professionalism demonstrated by most doctors, nurses, midwives and clinical staff, the disturbing events which have come to light in places like Mid-Staffordshire Hospital as well as the unacceptable amount of time and resources wasted on administrative staff and bureaucracy, has demonstrated a clear case for reform.
The Government has brought in many necessary changes to tackle those problems.
At the heart of the Government's health policy is the belief that people, patients, GPs and councils are best placed to determine the nature of their local NHS services.
As a result of the Government's policy to ensure that power is devolved to communities, decisions about NHS services are now essentially a matter for the local NHS organisations.
It is for this reason, that I have supported the STITCH campaign in Torrington and communities in Torridge in making clear to our local NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups that our community hospitals are cherished institutions.
In our rural area, it would be short sighted to close them or to take any irrevocable step that would prevent them permanently from being the centre of local health services that they could and should be. That includes in-patient beds.
The NDDH Trust and the local CCG are experimenting with a new system, the so-called, "Hospital at Home Scheme" which is said to provide 24 hour care in the home, or admission to a local approved nursing home providing appropriate care.
I want to see how this new system is working before Torrington loses irreversibly its remaining beds. That is why last August, I fought with STITCH and the friends of Great Torrington Hospital to persuade the local health authorities to have the beds reopened during a proper consultation.
I have written to the Trust and the CCG asking for facts and figures on the progress and performance of "Hospital at Home" and I hope they will be as transparent and detailed as possible in their reply.
Otherwise, there will be an increasing suspicion that there is something to hide and that the people of Great Torrington are not being "levelled with".
I shall be joining STITCH at their public rally on Saturday, February 8 in the town square at 11 am. I hope that as many local residents will turn out to support us as possible because by doing so, we can send a clear message to those with the decision making power over community hospitals.
We shall not relent in our vigilance to ensure that they remain a living and vibrant centre of health services and health provision in our communities. Certainly without any proven, adequate substitute, the irrevocable elimination of an in-patient facility would be against the wishes and interests of Great Torrington and its people.
It is vital that this experiment by NDDH and the CCG is not the beginning of a long slow slide towards the abandonment of community hospitals.