Ottery hospital plans ‘deplorable’ and ‘crackers’, say residents

More than 200 residents attended the meeting last Tuesday

More than 200 residents attended the meeting last Tuesday - Credit: Archant

More than 200 people gathered at The Institute last week to voice their strong opposition to proposed changes to community hospitals - which will see beds at Ottery’s facility close to inpatients.

The meeting was organised by Cllrs Claire Wright and Roger Giles

The meeting was organised by Cllrs Claire Wright and Roger Giles - Credit: Archant

At Tuesday’s (October 7) meeting, residents branded changes being considered by healthcare bosses as ‘deplorable’, ‘unjustifiable’ and ‘crackers’ - with a poll of attendees showing a near-unanimous objection to the planned bed closures.

However, just hours before the meeting began, NHS chiefs announced that the hospital’s beds would remain open, for the time being, as a specialist stroke unit from Crediton relocates to Ottery.

Addressing the meeting, Dr Simon Kerr, GP at the Coleridge Medical Centre and part of the area’s Clinical Commission Group – the organisation behind the proposals – said that financial pressures meant that beds would need to be consolidated.

He said a proposed ‘hospital at home’ model of care, which would see patients treated in their own homes where possible, was not yet ready to replace inpatient beds in East Devon.

In light of this, he said, the district would not see a reduction in the total number of beds, but the existing beds would need to be consolidated at fewer facilities.

Dr Kerr added: “We are trying very hard to try and make sure that the money we have is spent as wisely as we can.”

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But recently retired GP Tim Cox said the idea of ‘hospital at home’ sounded attractive in theory, but it was likely to be impractical and costly in reality - especially in rural areas like Ottery and East Devon.

He added: “Most of the thinking [behind the proposals] seems to be done on the back of a fag packet.”

This was a view shared by other residents, with Councillor Claire Wright questioning the timing of the stroke unit announcement.

She said the temporary relocation of the unit to Ottery amounted to a ‘public relations sticking plaster’, adding: “It certainly seems to me that a black shadow is still hanging over our hospital.”

Cllr Wright said that the next step would be for the community to make the strongest possible case for the hospital to retain its beds.

She suggested compiling a ‘book of care’ documenting experiences of how the hospital had benefited residents and their family members, as well as working with volunteers to campaign for the service to remain open.