Ruling on Ottery Hospital described as ‘a devastating blow to thousands of people’

Ottery St Mary Hospital entrance. Ref sho 7454-44-14TI Picture: Terry Ife

Ottery St Mary Hospital entrance. Ref sho 7454-44-14TI Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Judge says consultation over bed closures was ‘fair’ and extensive’

An attempt to secure a judicial review into the decision to close Ottery Hospital’s inpatient bed unit has been rejected.

Campaigners behind the last-ditch bid have said its failure is a ‘devastating blow’ to residents and puts the future of the facility – which has been paid for by community funds - in ‘serious doubt’.

The legal challenge was brought against the NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which made the controversial decision in July to close inpatient beds in a number of community hospitals.

In his rejection of the application, Mr Justice Blake concluded the CCG’s consultation was ‘extensive’ and ‘fair’ with ‘no evidence of predetermination or bias’. He noted the application was lodged on the last day of the three-month time limit allowed – a delay that helped sway the decision.

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The judge upheld his decision at a subsequent hearing on February 24.

The call for a judicial review was made by the Save Our Ottery Hospital (SOOH) campaign group - set up after the announcement of proposals to ‘consolidate’ inpatient bed units – and supporters.

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SOOH chairman James Goddard said: “This is a devastating blow to thousands of local residents, whose numbers will increase dramatically because of new housing developments.

“The future for this modern, efficient and geographically well-located hospital is now in serious doubt. It is a massive blow for those who had hoped that common sense and the need to provide the best possible care for local elderly and ailing residents would prevail.”

The CCG is now working on plans to turn the hospital into a health and wellbeing hub, but Mr Goddard says this raises concerns - with similar projects, such as in Budleigh Salterton, currently stalled.

Campaigner Philip Algar added: “Residents - now and in the future - will wonder why common sense and the well-reasoned views of so many were disregarded by so few, who had the power to change the lives of the sick and dying.”

A CCG spokesman said: “The judge said the CCG’s consultation was extensive and fair and gave sufficient information for opponents to respond to. The judge also upheld the legality of the decision-making process.”

The CCG has been awarded £6,000 costs.

Devon County Council’s health scrutiny committee is still conducting an enquiry into the CCG’s decision.

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