Gerald Malone, minister for health, speaking at the Royal Society of Medicine set out the government's vision on the future role of community hospitals.
Mr Malone said, 'It is too easy to focus on bricks and mortar, or bed counting - but our number one aim must be high quality patient care.
'Community hospitals have been at the heart of a process that is already promoting independence, by providing high quality services nearer home. Focused not on in-patient beds, but on providing the best services to meet people's needs.
'It is for the community hospital to demonstrate how innovative and effective it can be in meeting the needs of local people, in comparison with the other ways of delivering care. Fitting the role as 'cottage hospitals of the future' is a challenge to which they must rise.'