A Dartmouth care home has reopened to take patients discharged from hospital to help relieve pressure on the county’s NHS hospitals.

The Fleet care home, formerly known as the Riverview, was due to reopen later in the year to provide nursing care in the local community, but the decision to open it immediately, and with potentially more bed capacity, was escalated by Devon County Council as part of its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Only patients in need of specialist care are being kept in hospitals. Other patients are being discharged safely to ensure hospitals have more capacity to deal with those who are acutely ill, including patients suffering from Covid-19.

Devon County Council is making sure there are enough places for people to move to when they leave hospital. Most return home, but some require more support until they are a bit better.

Residential and nursing homes, which may otherwise be an option for them, are also under a lot of pressure to meet demand, and the authority is working with organisations that have accommodation with a view to these places being used temporarily by people when they can leave hospital.

The Fleet Care Home was due to open this year with 14 nursing care beds, but it will now open imminently with the potential to increase capacity by an extra 24 beds temporarily for people being discharged from hospital or moving in from home due to ill-health.

The council is also in discussion with a hotel owner in Bideford about opening up similar accommodation for discharged patients.

Alongside the potential Bideford facility, and the Hilton Hotel at Exeter Airport, which is already taking people discharged from hospital, the three facilities would provide an extra 200 beds, staffed by trained and experienced health and care professionals.

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, the cabinet member responsible for adult social care, said: “These will be for people who do not need to be in acute hospitals, but who require extra care before returning home or until residential or nursing places can be found for them.

“They can also be used by people with care needs who have been living at home, but who can no longer do so - if their carer becomes unwell, for example. We are doing absolutely everything we can to ensure that people in Devon continue to receive the care and support they need.”

Lee Baxter, associate director at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust said:

“We are working in partnership with all providers to ensure we can deliver the best possible care during the pandemic.

“As a key part of this we are working closely with Devon County Council to ensure we have facilities and accommodation available to keep NHS beds available for those who may need them at this time.

“We are very pleased to be working with Fleet as part of this approach.”

Anthony Mangnall, MP for the Totnes constituency, which includes Dartmouth, has welcomed the decision to bring forward the reopening of The Fleet, following several months of discussions and meetings. He said:“I am delighted to hear that The Fleet will be reopening this week.

“Dartmouth’s healthcare services have been of huge importance to me and I raised this issue with the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, when he visited in late 2019.

“Ensuring that Dartmouth is not cut off when it comes to its healthcare provisions has been a top priority and I am pleased with today’s announcement.

“I have been working with Devon County Council and the Clinical Commissioning Group to ensure that residents not only have reassurance when it comes to their healthcare services but that access across rural and urban areas is as comprehensive as possible.

“I will continue to work with local and national groups to maintain these provisions as we tackle COVID-19.”

Dartmouth’s county councillor Jonathan Hawkins, added: “I am very pleased that this building is being bought back into use and that it is going to be a nursing home that

Dartmouth and the surrounding parishes have been calling for a nursing home for many years so this is very welcome."

Melody Walters, regional manager for Care Concern Group, which own the Fleet said.

“The team has worked tremendously hard to bring the opening of the home forward, they all feel very proud to be helping the local community during these trying times, and are looking forward to providing the new residents with a caring and luxurious environment."