Council bosses condemn decision to scrap more than 100 beds at community hospitals

Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Ref shs 3264-50-14AW. Picture: Alex Walton.

Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Ref shs 3264-50-14AW. Picture: Alex Walton. - Credit: Archant

East Devon council bosses have condemned the health body responsible for scrapping more than 100 beds at a number of community hospitals.

Fears have been raised about the added pressure the move will not only put on Sidmouth Victoria Hospital but also the communities in the 150 square mile area of the district that will be left without local health care.

It comes after a decision by the NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Clinical Commissioning Group (NHS NEW Devon CCG) to axe 42 inpatient beds at the Seaton and Honiton hospitals.

The Herald previously reported the body’s move after a 13-week ‘Your Future Care’ public consultation.

The community hospitals in Axminster, Ottery St Mary and Budleigh Salterton have already seen their inpatient beds scrapped and, in September, 24 more beds will be axed in Seaton and 18 from Honiton.

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Across the county a total of 140 inpatient beds will be lost from community hospitals leaving just 72 beds at Tiverton, Sidmouth and Exmouth. The Herald previously reported how the changes would affect around 20 patients a week in the localised area, which is everything from Axminster in the East and Tiverton in the North to Exmouth in the South and Okehampton in the West.

At its latest meeting, district councillors slammed the move and approved a motion which condemned the CCG’s decision to scrap the beds before putting an affective home care resource in place.

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The motion also included a request for Devon County Council’s health and wellbeing board to demand independent evidence from the CCG, proving the home care option was working to, at least, the same standard offered by the inpatient beds.

They also called for the MIU and maternity unit in Honiton to remain ring fenced and protected until a review in three years time and for a letter to be sent to new MPs, after the election, urging them to stop further cuts.

Mrs Di Smith, from Seaton, spoke at the meeting and said: “The chosen hospital, Sidmouth, will have to serve all of the communities in both the Sid and Axe valleys plus some surrounding areas.

“This is a vast catchment area where it would involve four or more bus journeys plus waiting times which could take up the whole day – this is totally unacceptable.

“A staggering amount of care homes are closing everyday across the country – it is vital we fight to keep our community hospital beds.”

Her husband, Mr Smith added: “At the flick of a bureaucrat’s pen both hospitals are set to lose their beds.

“The hospitals allow patients to be treated in their communities and for their love ones to visit them easily.

“If beds are removed, around 150 square miles of the Blackdown Hills will be without it. I’m extremely concerned villages and hamlets in East Devon will be cut off from local health care services without an adequate replacement.”

Councillor Cathy Gardner said The NEW Devon CCG was in dire financial straits and under extreme pressure to make further cuts which was very likely to have severe effects of patient care.

“I worry many people don’t realise the effects these cuts will have on special care for their friend, family and themselves,” she added.

A spokesperson for NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (NHS NEW Devon CCG) said: “The CCG has always been clear that no beds will close until we are assured of readiness for implementation of the out-of-hospital model.

“This assurance will be sought from a panel involving GPs, consultant geriatricians and other professionals, managers and stakeholders.”

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