What are Community Hospitals

Categories Definitions Resources

Community Hospitals are small local hospitals that provide a range of services to their local community. These can include community beds, maternity, clinics, minor injuries units, X ray departments and much more.  Community Hospitals have been part of our health care system for over 150 years and offer a strong tradition of care that local populations have known over generations. There are over 500 community hospitals throughout the UK.

Originally established as converted cottages offering inpatient beds, they have developed into hubs of services that have developed to meet changing needs. These services range from health promotion, diagnostics, treatments, rehabilitation and end of life care. The community hospital plays a particular role in intermediate care, and is a focus for integration for many staff and services in both health and social care.   

Community hospitals vary considerably, as they have adapted to the needs of their local populations. They are typically highly valued by local people, and this support is shown through actions such as volunteering, fundraising, promoting and campaigning. 

Categories of Community Hospitals

The categories that the CHA has developed for the Department of Health have been adopted and updated.

Classic Community Hospital 

A local hospital, unit or centre community based, providing an appropriate range and format of accessible health care facilities and resources for the defined community. These will include inpatient beds and may include outpatients, diagnostics, surgery, day care, nurse led, maternity, primary care and outreach services for patients provided by multidisciplinary teams.

Community Hospital Hub

Also referred to as Community Care Resource Centres, these local hospitals provide a range of community-based health and social care services. Community hubs do not include inpatient beds but may include outpatients, diagnostics, treatments, day care, primary care and outreach services for patients provided by multidisciplinary teams. They may also provide service concerned with wellbeing and health promotion, and also provide a base for third sector services. A number of classic community hospitals are being reconfigured into community hubs, following the closure of inpatient wards.

Intermediate Care/Rehabilitation Unit

A local facility providing beds and associated clinics and therapy in order to promote independence, avoid admission to a DGH (step up) and reduce stays in a DGH (step down). These units or hospitals typically focus exclusively on rehabilitation, and do not provide other services.  These may be standalone units, or within a nursing home.

Community Hospital beds in a Ward in a DGH

Community beds for intermediate care have been established in a number of secondary care hospitals, and are described as community hospitals within a DGH.

Definitions of Community Hospitals

A Selection of Definitions and Descriptions of Community Hospitals

These are a selection of various definitions and descriptions of community hospitals. There is yet to be one definition that is universally adopted, although the definition offered by Ritchie is the most frequently cited.


“A local hospital or unit, providing an appropriate range and format of health care facilities and resources. These will include in- patients, out-patients, diagnostics, day care, primary care and outreach services for patients provided by multidisciplinary teams.” Ritchie, L. (1996) "Community Hospitals in Scotland - Promoting Progress." Aberdeen: University of Aberdeen.


“Its objectives should be to meet the local community’s non-specialist health needs, to take a holistic approach to patient care and to work towards maintaining patients in the community wherever possible.” Tucker, H. (1987). "The Role and Function of Community Hospitals - Kings Fund Project Paper Number 70” London : Kings Edward’s Hospital Fund for London

DH Definition

“The community hospital is a service which offers integrated health and social care and is supported by community-based professionals who have direct access to its services” Department of Health (2006) "Our Health Our Care Our Community - Investing in Community hospitals and services." London: Department of Health.

DH Description

“A modern community hospital service aims to provide an integrated local health and social care resource for the local population to which it belongs.

These local facilities develop as a result of negotiations between local people, practitioners and the NHS. Community hospitals are an effective extension to primary care with medical support provided largely from local GPs.

The service models include rehabilitation, palliative care, intermediate care and surgical care, plus emergency and maternity facilities.

Community Hospital interventions ranging from day surgery to medical inpatient episodes are characterised by care pathways that maximise local sources of support, including those outside the NHS and health care professionals.

This integrated systems approach and sense of devolved accountability places the community hospital as a focus of local community networks
Department of Health (2006) "Our Health, Our Care, Our Say: A new direction for community services." London: Department of Health.

Department of Health (2006) "Our Health Our Care Our Community - Investing in Community hospitals and services." London: Department of Health.


We are constantly updating our database of community hospitals.  It records over 500 community hospitals throughout the UK. This includes classic community hospitals with beds; community hubs without beds; rehabilitation/ intermediate care units, and also community wards in acute hospitals. The current data set includes fields on: commissioner, provider, address, postcode, telephone number, and notes on current status.  If you want to check that your hospital information is correct, or want further information please contact us.

Country No.
England 346
Scotland 101
Wales 44
Northern Ireland 13
Total 504

Profiling Community Hospitals in England 2008

Profiling Community Hospitals in England 2008

The Department of Health (DH) with Community Health Partnership (CHP) commissioned a study from the Community Hospitals Association (CHA) to provide a profile of community hospitals in England in 1998 and 2008, demonstrating changes and trends over the 10-year period. Download our Profiling Report here CHA Profiling Report.

The study found that there was an increase in diversification of community hospitals. In addition to the 296 classic community hospitals with beds, there were 16 community hubs (without beds), 1 community ward in a DGH, 3 rehabilitation/intermediate care units and 7 examples of partnerships with care homes.

Community Hospitals Association Directory 1999

Community Hospitals Association Directory 1999

The Directory was published in 1999 and recorded 468 community hospitals in the UK.

The directory listed community hospitals by name, location, address, population served, the name of the nearest DGH and the distance from the community hospital to the DGH. A profile of the hospital services was listed, including number of beds, and whether the hospital had services such as casualty, X-ray etc. The profiling also included the number of visiting Consultant, number of GPs supporting the hospital, and the number of practices.  Download here

The Association of General Practitioner Hospitals Directory 1985

The Association of General Practitioner Hospitals Directory 1985

The CHA, (previously known as the Association of General Practitioner Hospitals) published a directory in 1985 that listed 415 community hospitals in the UK. 

In addition to profile data, the directory also provided activity data.  This included the number of beds, the number of discharges/deaths, occupancy rate and the length of stay. Also recorded were the number of surgical procedures carried out under general anaesthetic, casualty and outpatient clinic attendances and X-ray units. Download here

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