Did health secretary speech shed light on Ottery St Mary Hospital future?

East Devon MP Sir Hugo Swire says Matt Hancock's speech should cease fears about the fate of the hos

East Devon MP Sir Hugo Swire says Matt Hancock's speech should cease fears about the fate of the hospital. Picture: Terry Ife/Contributed - Credit: Archant

An announcement that a period of ‘blindly closing’ hospitals across the UK has ended, has split opinion on whether the future of Ottery’s will be safeguarded.

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

Health secretary Matt Hancock's speech on Monday (September 30), in which he said 40 new hospitals would be built in the next ten years, has prompted East Devon MP Hugo Swire to repeat assurances about the hospital.

Ottery Hospital, in Thorne Farm Way, has been subject of a community effort to ensure it remains open after it lost its inpatient beds in 2015 and stroke unit in 2017.

In line with Government policy, the MP this week wrote to Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust to ask it to take ownership of the building from NHS Property Services, to help secure its future beyond its rent review in 2021.

Mr Hancock, in his address to the Conservative Party conference this week, said some of the country's new-builds will be research hospitals.


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He added: "Others will be community hospitals like Devon and Dorset that serve their local communities with pride. Last year I told this conference that the era of blindly closing hospitals was over. This year we are building new ones."

Sir Hugo tweeted: "Any hope that those who have been making political capital out of deliberately worrying local people about the future of Ottery St Mary Hospital can now cease?"

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However, Mr Hancock's speech was slammed as 'vague' and 'difficult to draw conclusions from' by Devon county councillor, and Independent parliamentary candidate, Claire Wright.

She said the Conservative rule has been 'disastrous' for hospitals, adding: "Despite many attempts we have not received any assurances from the local NHS or NHSPS that Ottery St Mary Hospital - or any other local community hospital - is safe from being sold off.

"Bizarrely, the outgoing MP, Sir Hugo Swire seems to be blaming communities for working to save their local hospitals from the actions of his own government."

Sir Hugo said the speech showed Devon was playing a leading role for the future provision of community hospitals.

A spokesman for the MP said: "We know rents are too high but for the time being Hancock has been keen to stress the hospital will not close and has a 'secure future'. Hugo has written today (Monday) to the RD&E to see whether they can take this on."

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