‘Critical time’ for hospital

Protestors at Ottery Hospital

Protestors at Ottery Hospital - Credit: Archant

Campaigners and civic leaders are preparing a fight to the finish ahead of the final decision on the future of community hospitals next week.

Under proposals set out by the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Ottery stands to lose its in-patient beds and minor injuries unit – something the community has strongly opposed.

With the final decision due to be made at a meeting on Thursday, July 16, town councillors are stepping up efforts to save the facilities and have called on East Devon MP Hugo Swire for his ‘urgent intervention’.

Mayor Glyn Dobson said: “I ask everyone in each community that will be affected by these cuts, to do the same as quickly as possible.

“Our hospital is precious to us.

“It has modern facilities, a highly-professional and dedicated staff and provides excellent care for people across the county.

“We are now at a critical time and so I ask you to write in support.

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“A groundswell of local action might just win the day.”

In a letter to Mr Swire, the town council refers to a meeting the MP had with health secretary Jeremy Hunt, where both agreed on the important role played by community hospitals.

Three representatives of the Northern Devon Healthcare Trust, who currently work in Ottery Hospital, attended a town council meeting on Monday and spoke of the positive effect of having the stroke unit at the site - where it was relocated as a temporary measure - and said it could even be a ‘centre of excellence’.

County councillor Claire Wright represented Ottery on the stakeholder group.

She wrote to the CCG chairman asking for public speaking to be included at the beginning of Thursday’s meeting rather than at the end because of the ‘importance’ of the item on the agenda.

She expressed disappointment when her request was refused.

Dr Tim Burke, a family GP and CCG chairman, said: “There continues to be space on the agenda for members of the public to ask questions relating to healthcare matters discussed during the meeting.

“I have simply been pointing out that the councillor and other members of the public have every right to do this.

“Indeed we welcome their attendance at the next meeting to do so.

“Thousands of people in Eastern Devon have used the last two years to give their feedback on the future of community services, either in person, in the 30 public meetings or drop-in sessions we have held, by phone or by email.

“Public feedback continues to be taken into account as part of the decision-making processes and doctors and NHS managers meet to discuss this next Thursday.

“We have now naturally got to a point where we must make a decision.

“We have to provide the best possible care for people and, ultimately, the decision we will take on Thursday will be in the best interests of the patients we serve.”