Hugo Swire slams 'short-sighted' decision to reduce hospital beds

PUBLISHED: 16:05 17 July 2015 | UPDATED: 09:25 27 July 2015

East Devon MP Hugo Swire

East Devon MP Hugo Swire

Copyright: R Braine

MP Hugo Swire has condemned the decision to reduce inpatient beds across East Devon's community hospitals.

The NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) governing body voting members unanimously agreed proposals yesterday (Thursday) that will see Ottery St Mary and Axminster hospitals lose their inpatient beds.

In Exmouth, the inpatient bed allocation will be reduced from 22 to 16, with eight stroke rehabilitation beds transferred to Ottery – where the facility will be retained on a temporary basis.

The decision goes against recommendations from an independent stakeholder group set up by the CCG, which provided an alternative solution, allowing for provision of community beds in each of the eastern locality sites.

Mr Swire said: “I am profoundly shocked that the CCG has made such a short-sighted decision at a time when the future of local healthcare is under review.

“This issue should have been considered carefully after a new healthcare provider had been confirmed, not rushed through beforehand.

‘The CCG has completely disregarded local opinion along with the recommendations made by their own stakeholder reference group.

“This I find wholly unacceptable, as do many of my constituents, and I would urge the CCG to reconsider their decision.”

The MP for East Devon previously dismissed the proposals as ‘illogical’ and this week wrote to the CCG chairman, Dr Tim Burke, saying that it was ‘unacceptable’ to press ahead with current plans in advance of the change of healthcare provider to the Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust.

Mr Swire also warned the CCG against riding ‘roughshod over local opinion’ following the publication of a report by the stakeholder reference group which recommended that the hospital beds should remain open.

Dr David Jenner, GP and chair of the eastern locality CCG, said the decision will ‘improve the resilience of care at our community hospitals in the face of financial and workforce challenges’.

He said: “We are looking to continually improve services to support people in their local communities whether they are cared for at home or in hospital and this is one step forward on that journey.

“We want to thank all the local people and organisations who have been involved throughout the development of the plans over the last couple of years. We held over 30 public meetings or drop-in sessions and have taken their comments into consideration when making our decision today.

“Of course we understand that some people will always want to have community beds in their own area and this decision may disappoint them but making sure everyone has the same level of access to services is very important.

“Over the last few years the hospital provider Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust has had to temporarily close some community hospital inpatient units due to staffing issues. Consolidating from 10 to seven units means we will have much more robust staffing at our hospitals in the future.”

The process in which the proposals were agreed will now be considered at the Devon health and wellbeing scrutiny committee meeting on September 14.

A timeline for implementing changes will depend on the outcomes and feedback from this meeting.

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