Opinion - Retired nurse: ‘Hospital bed closures cannot be undone’

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

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

Fears for healthcare in Sidmouth and East Devon

As a recently retired Registered Nurse (RN), I would like to comment on the proposals put forward by the North, East and West Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, (NEW Devon CCG).

All the community hospitals give high-quality treatment and care to the patients. There is a multi-disciplinary team that includes physiotherapists, occupational therapist, specialist nurses, e.g palliative care, social workers, dieticians etc. This team develops an individualised care plan for each patient after a thorough assessment of their capabilities and their needs. Community hospitals are not merely institutions for convalescence.

If the proposal goes ahead, the impact on the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital will be huge and resources there are already stretched. How many times were they on red alert or even black alert last winter? Also, the minor injury units (MIU) at Honiton and Ottery St Mary will close, creating even longer waiting times at the RD&E, Exmouth, Beacon Health Centre and Tiverton hospitals. The MIUs are vital in a rural community like East Devon. I remember working in MIU when parents rushed in with their six-week-old baby who was almost lifeless. I was able to clinically assess and stabilise the baby before she was transferred to the RD&E by emergency ambulance. Without the MIU, the chances of that baby surviving were very slim.

I strongly suspect the NEW Devon CCG will opt for option A - Tiverton, Exmouth and Seaton remaining open. Studies have shown that people do recover better in their own homes, but there has to be a strong network of clinical support and the accommodation has to be suitable.

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I presume that the nursing staff from the hospitals that will be closed will be redeployed into the community, but what happens to those that cannot drive or don’t have access to a vehicle? What about the hotel services staff and the catering staff?

My fear is that, once these closures are in place, they cannot be undone. I suspect that the buildings will be sold off to a property developer for huge sums of money to plug that £400million deficit. Cynical? No, I’ve seen it all before in 40 years of working in the NHS. Digby hospital, Exminster hospital and Starcross spring to my mind.

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