Plans to cut hospital beds in eastern Devon come under fire

Protesters gather in Sidmouth outside public meeting to discuss proposed bed cuts

Protesters gather in Sidmouth outside public meeting to discuss proposed bed cuts - Credit: Archant

Members of the public, health professionals and campaigners flocked to first consultation meeting in Sidmouth

Fears for the future of patient care were raised as plans to cut community hospital beds came under critical public scrutiny yesterday (Monday).

Healthcare professionals and frontline staff joined residents and campaigners in Sidmouth for the first in a series of consultation meetings with NHS bosses on proposals that would see the town lose its 24 inpatient beds.

The Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) outlined its case that the current system is ‘over reliant on hospital beds’ and said the changes to a home-based model of care would serve patients better.

Attendees were presented with four options – all of which would see bed numbers across the locality drop from 143 to 71 – in a bid to plug a predicted £384million NHS deficit by 2021.

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Speaking at the meeting, chair of the Sid Valley patient participation group Di Fuller said: “Many of us feel that being asked to vote for a preferred option is fundamentally flawed. We feel very strongly that every single bed should be retained until there is a greater clarity about the consultation and the process underpinning it.

“There is no information about the numbers of clinicians that refused to be part of the process because they fundamentally disagreed with it.”

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In response, Angela Pedder – the CCG’s lead chief executive – said: “We are retaining 72 community hospital beds that we see as an important part of the network and provision across Devon.

“Our responsibility is to make the best possible use of the resources available to us. We recognise that is a really difficult set of conversations for communities.”

The CCG panel stressed that it is seeking genuine consultation and will consider all feedback, including alternative options.

Sidmouth-based paramedic Lisa Craig said: “We feel that the way to look at this is put the services in place in the community before you cut the hospital beds. Prove it works first and then start cutting beds.”

She asked what the timescale for implementing changes would be and was told the CCG would make a decision in February or March 2017 and begin putting the new care model in place from then.

Addressing the panel, a member of the public said: “The idea that we are going to get these people who work in hospitals to drive around and care for people in the community – you are dreaming. All I can say is the cuts will happen and care will not get any better.

“All that will happen is we will put pressure on those poor staff who will be rushing around trying to implement this new model of care.”

Dr Barry Lowden – chairman of Sidmouth Hospiscare – cited the ‘care in the community’ of the 1990s as an example and asked for reassurance that the proposals would not turn out to be an ‘unmitigated disaster’ with a lot of vulnerable people getting let down.

In response, CCG director of operations Rob Sainsbury said: “We have to look at indicators. Our clinicians will not sign off on something that they do not think is safe. We have been doing this in other parts of Devon where we are seeing good outcomes and good indicators of good quality of care.”

He argued there needs to be a change in thinking away from hospital-based care and said there is currently many disjointed services, with some patients seeing up to nine different professionals and some falling through the net.

Richard Anderson, the manager of community health and social care services in the area, questioned the validity of cutting beds and argued there is no real saving once money has been reinvested in the new model of care.

In reply, Mrs Pedder said the changes would unlock resources to enable health bosses to address the number of people who are stuck in hospital beds.

There were calls from the public for more Government money for the ‘chronically under-funded’ NHS rather than bed cuts.

Chair of Sidmouth Victoria Hospital Comforts Fund Graham Vincent thanked everyone for turning out and detailed the £5million of community funds that have gone into making it ‘the best’ community hospital.

The full consultation document is available online at and paper copies can be picked up from Sidmouth’s leisure centre, library, hospital, town council offices and pharmacies.

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