‘All options open’ for Ottery’s hospital

Ottery St Mary Hospital entrance. Ref sho 7454-44-14TI Picture: Terry Ife

Ottery St Mary Hospital entrance. Ref sho 7454-44-14TI Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Civic leaders are keeping all options open ahead of a decision on the future of Ottery Hospital – including challenging any decision to close the beds in the courts.

A ‘stakeholder group’ has been exploring alternatives to proposals by healthcare commissioners that would see Ottery’s inpatient services move to Honiton, and the minor injuries unit close.

But town councillors agreed this week to take preliminary advice on lodging a judicial review, should officials at the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) decide to stick with their original plans.

Updating colleagues on Tuesday, Councillor Martin Thurgood, who has been representing the town on the stakeholder panel, said the council ‘needed to be prepared’.

He outlined four courses of action for the council, including the possibility of referring the CCG’s eventual decision to healthcare regulators or challenging it in the High Court.

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He said: “If the CCG does not come up with the right answer for our hospital, that is the retention of inpatient beds, we will need to consider where we will go if we don’t get the answer we want.”

“We could seek out legal advice, so we could take that route should we agree at a later date that is the right route to take.”

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The review process would likely cost thousands of pounds in lawyers’ fees, but the meeting heard about a similar situation in Axminster, where a resident who qualified for legal aid had lodged the challenge.

Mayor Glyn Dobson said: “We need to know just how far we go with judicial review, because it’s not an easy thing to do. We do need some initial advice.

“But the cost, I have heard, is somewhere around £20,000.”

Cllr Roger Giles agreed that the council needed to ‘fight the closure with everything it can muster’, and was critical over the CCG’s consultation process.

He said: “The whole way along has been deliberate evasion, and it continues. They won’t give the information that Ottery Town Council representatives have been striving to find.

“They have been evasive, and they continue to be evasive. And I think that is deplorable in a public body.”

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