There is a strong tradition of integration in rural community hospitals which has been largely unrecognised in the past. The national strategy for health in England now gives community hospitals a central role in providing integrated health and social care, in a policy referred to as ‘care closer to home’. The evidence emerging from international and national studies is demonstrating the benefit of the community hospital model of care. Public support for community hospitals over their 100‐year history has been strong, with value being placed on accessibility, quality and continuity. There is, however, a tension between the national policy and the current financial pressures to close or reduce services in one in three community hospitals in England. Innovative ways of owning and managing these services are being put forward by communities who are actively seeking to maintain and develop their local hospitals. The challenge is to demonstrate that community hospital services are valued models of person‐centred integrated care, and to demonstrate their contribution to the health and well‐being of their communities.
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