Ottery campaigners asked to move on in hospital protest

PUBLISHED: 13:25 06 April 2017 | UPDATED: 12:34 07 April 2017

Crowds gather in wet weather outside of Ottery Hospital  to demonstrate on April Fool's Day. Credit: Peter Faithfull

Crowds gather in wet weather outside of Ottery Hospital to demonstrate on April Fool's Day. Credit: Peter Faithfull

Archant

NHS bosses said patient safety was their 'top priority' when they moved on protesters on a rally to 'save' Ottery Hospital.

Campaigners forming a red line at the hospital on Saturday called the decision ‘overzealous’ after being asked to move several times. The event was attended by some 150 people as part of an area-wide demonstration against cuts to inpatient beds across East Devon.

A Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust spokeswoman said the nurse in charge took the decision to ask the crowd to move to allow access to the building for patients.

Adel Jones, integration director for the trust, said: “Maintaining safety and minimising any potential disruption to our patients, visitors and staff were our top priorities. However, in planning for these events, we took every step to support local people in their right to express their views through protest.

“Overall, the demonstrations were conducted peacefully and co-operatively. However, a number of protesters had gathered at the entrance of Ottery Hospital, which meant that, on a couple of occasions, the nurse in charge had to ask the protesters to move to allow patient access to the building.”

Councillor Claire Wright led a call for action to save the £250,000 hospital building, which has been funded by the community.

Cllr Wright said: “I would say this was overzealous. In these sort of situations, you should use proportion.

“We were not going to stand in the way of an ambulance and, when you hear that kind of message and you are moved twice, it just rubs people up the wrong way.”

On Saturday, Cllr Wright told protestors the gathering was a ‘strong message’ to NHS managers and East Devon MPs Hugo Swire and Neil Parish.

She added: “The local NHS has said there are ‘no red lines’ when it comes to cuts to reduce a projected £500million deficit across Devon.

“Today we are that red line. We represent a physical barrier to any risk to our Ottery Hospital. Despite the fact that private company NHS Property Services legally owns it, it is ours, so they can keep their hands off it.

“We have lost our beds here in Ottery. I still hope that common sense will prevail and one day they will return, but for that to happen we must ensure the building remains.”

West Hill resident Philip Algar told Ottery Town Council this week that the crowds had gathered outside the reception area, under a covering, due to the weather, before being asked to move. He added: “What puzzles me is on previous occasions, when just as many people turned up, we were not invited to move on. Who decided that on this particular occasion we should be invited to move on? It hasn’t happened before why this time?”

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