Hope for community hospitals?
PUBLISHED: 17:06 20 January 2015
Health bosses have agreed to consider other options for the future of Sidmouth and Ottery St Mary's hospitals - which could include the services continuing as normal.
At a meeting this week, officials said they were willing to look at alternatives to previous proposals, which would see Ottery lose its inpatient beds and the closure of minor injuries units (MIU) in both towns.
Other options already on the table include improving the MIUs to reduce pressure on the already busy A&E department at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, and lobbying central government for more funding.
The possibilities were discussed at a meeting of a newly formed ‘reference group’, which has been tasked with working alongside decision makers at the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to discuss the future of community hospitals in East Devon.
And although the CCG has already outlined its vision for future healthcare in the region - which has been largely negatively received by residents in both Sidmouth and Ottery - officials say they are now willing to listen to alternative ideas.
Sidmouth is currently represented on the group by Graham Vincent, chairman of the Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Comforts Fund, with Di Fuller, chairman of the Sid Valley Patients Participation Group, putting her name forward as well.
She said the CCG’s recent consultation in the town had elicited a ‘huge outcry’ from the public, who wanted to see the current setup maintained.
She acknowledged a planned increase in beds at Sidmouth’s facility would be beneficial, but added: “There is a demographic change in Sidmouth that justifies that anyway.
“We are concerned that, with the changes elsewhere,we will be swamped.”
Panel members from Ottery are currently Adrian Rutter, chairman of the town’s league of friends, and Councillor Claire Wright.
However, Cllr Wright is pushing for the town to be allowed additional representation, because the hospital there is one of just two in the district where inpatient beds are under threat.
The reference group is due to meet again in February, where the CCG has agreed to supply more information on its finances as well as the cost implications of its current proposals.
The panel will also consider the possibility of retaining beds and minor injuries units across the region.