MP Hugo Swire raises concerns about plans to cut community hospital beds in Sidmouth

Hugo Swire stock picture

Hugo Swire stock picture - Credit: Archant

‘We are in danger of putting the cart before the horse’

Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Ref shs 3264-50-14AW. Picture: Alex Walton.

Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Ref shs 3264-50-14AW. Picture: Alex Walton. - Credit: Archant

Sir Hugo Swire argued against community beds cuts and criticised a consultation process that he says unfairly disadvantages elderly people yesterday (Tuesday).

East Devon’s MP called a parliamentary debate - attended by the majority of the county’s MPs - to raise concerns about health care ‘reforms’ - under which Sidmouth stands to lose all 24 of its inpatient beds.

Sir Hugo said the NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) proposals to cut community hospital beds posed a danger of ‘putting the horse before the cart’ if adequate alternative care provision is not in place.

Speaking in Westminster, Sir Hugo argued Devon is being ‘unfairly targeted’ in the nationwide drive to plug an NHS deficit and argued Sidmouth has an aging demographic with a high proportion of over-85s, making healthcare paramount.

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He said: “The community is hugely supportive of our local community hospitals.

“Many local residents over the years have donated significant sums to the hospitals themselves. In Sidmouth, this is more than £5million.

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“I will talk about the consultation process and the lack of documentation. As I understand it, the consultation process has been overwhelmingly carried out online. Elderly people - who may have no access to the internet and who are disproportionately likely to be affected by the changes - are therefore disadvantaged.”

Sir Hugo acknowledged figures quoted by health bosses which state a move aware from hospitals towards home-based care would be more cost efficient.

He said: “However, we are in danger of putting the cart before the horse. Until we can absolutely ensure that we have got social care right, we should not look at unnecessarily closing community beds that some people will have to use.

“Equally, I am nervous that, just because we have well-supported community hospitals across East Devon, we are being targeted unfairly, so as to rebalance the books across other parts of the county.

“If we are reducing the number of hospital beds, it is absolutely essential that the social care system is able to compensate for that loss.”

In response to issues raised, Philip Dunne – the minister of state for the Department of Health – referred to the need for change to plug a predicted £398 million deficit by 2020/21.

He said: “It has come out of the investigations leading up to the consultation that every day more than 500 people in north, east and west Devon are being cared for in a hospital bed who do not need to be there. That is at the heart of the challenge that we face not just in Devon but across the country.

“It is important, when we come to look at the recommendations arising from the consultation, that we take into account the capacity that will need to be created in social care to provide alternative models of care if the number of beds is reduced.”

The consultation document can be viewed at, as well as libraries, GP surgeries, hospitals and leisure centres.

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