More than 6,300 sign petition against hospital bed closures in East Devon

Petition opposing bed cuts handed to CCG associate Jenny McNeill (second from right) by chairman of

Petition opposing bed cuts handed to CCG associate Jenny McNeill (second from right) by chairman of Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Comforts Fund Graham Vincent (second from left) (with the fund's vice chairman Jeremy Roberts (far left) and vice president Frances Newth (far right) - Credit: Archant

Chairman of Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Comforts Fund hands petition to health bosses on penultimate day of consultation

More than 6,300 people have lodged their opposition to plans that would see the number of community hospital beds in East Devon slashed by 54 per cent.

Graham Vincent, chairman of Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Comforts Fund, this week thanked the town for a mass uprising of support in the fight to save its ‘vital’ publicly-funded inpatient unit, writes Eleanor Pipe.

He presented a petition signed by 6,360 people to health bosses at a meeting yesterday (Thursday) – the penultimate day of a 13-week consultation into proposed cuts.

A campaign launched in the Herald gained overwhelming support - with many residents bravely sharing their own experiences to highlight the importance of retaining inpatient beds. Hundreds of people attended public meetings and protests.

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The NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) governing body is now set to take the next steps towards making a final decision on the plans.

It says a move towards a more home-based model of care will be better for patients and help to plug a predicted £384million deficit by 2020/21, but health bosses have issued assurances that nothing will be implemented until a stringent series of checks are satisfied.

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The latest report from the CCG reveals that more than 1,750 people have participated in the formal consultation process. The first day of public meetings, at Knowle, Sidmouth, was attended by 157 residents. The CCG’s preferred option would see 32 inpatient beds retained in Tiverton, 24 in Seaton and 16 in Exmouth.

Mr Vincent said: “I would like to thank the whole community for its massive support in signing our petition to keep the inpatient beds at Sidmouth Victoria Hospital open and the many letters sent to the CCG and to myself suggesting why our beds should remain.

“Our hospital is unique; it was not funded by the NHS or PFI (private finance initiative), but the very generous local community.”

The CCG’s report states that the decision-making process will take into account the views of the consultation and build on the original evaluation criteria for deciding options.

But campaigners have raised concerns about whether the strength of public feeling will be taken into account and criticised the consultation that sets out four options – all of which would see the loss of community hospital beds.

District councillor Cathy Gardner said: “I’ve been concerned for quite a while that whilst the CCG continually stress they are consulting, we have no real idea of how public feedback will influence the outcome. It is easy to doubt that it will.

“I think it is remiss of us to accept that consultation is happening so everything will be OK. We must challenge this and ask for the results and how the responses have been taken into account. Evidence is key.”

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