Watchdog critical of loss of East Devon hospital beds

Save Our Hospitals- protesters at Newcourt Communtiy Centre this week. Ref sho 4589-29-15SH. Picture

Save Our Hospitals- protesters at Newcourt Communtiy Centre this week. Ref sho 4589-29-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

A controversial decision to cut community hospital beds in East Devon has come under fire from a district council watchdog.

Changes that will see the number of inpatient units reduce from 10 to seven were slammed as ‘premature’ and ‘shocking’ at a meeting of East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) scrutiny committee.

The authority criticised the handling of a consultation process and agreed to ask MPs Hugo Swire and Neil Parish to bring the matter up as a ‘matter of urgency’ with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Under the proposals agreed by the NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) governing body, inpatient beds in Ottery St Mary, Axminster and Crediton will all be axed.

Minor injuries units in Sidmouth, Ottery, Axminster and Seaton are also earmarked for closure - but a decision on this is yet to be made.

Health bosses say their decision will allow East Devon hospitals to have ‘larger, more resilient units’ and help combat difficulties with providing ‘continuously safe, high quality care’ in small inpatient units. But county councillor Claire Wright - a member of an independent stakeholder group which recommended against the proposals - told the meeting she had found the consultation process ‘unacceptable’. “People in Ottery are devastated by the loss of hospital beds,” said Cllr Wright.

Chairman of Save Our Ottery Hospital campaign group, James Goddard, spoke at the meeting last Thursday, and said people’s pleas and requests had been ignored by the CCG. He added: “The CCG’s absence here is proof of their arrogance.”

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The scrutiny committee heard that the CCG had been invited to attend the meeting, but declined, saying no-one was available. Axminster representative, Cllr Andrew Moulding, called the closure of beds ‘a bad decision, prematurely made’.

Chairman of the scrutiny committee, Cllr Roger Giles, said he had been ‘shocked’ by the CCG’s decision.

His proposal to write to the MPs - and to also contact Devon County Council’s (DCC) health and wellbeing scrutiny committee ahead of its meeting in September - was met with unanimous agreement.

In response to criticisms, a CCG spokesman said it had to make a decision that would ‘benefit the entire community of East Devon’ and insisted the alternative would have cost £200,000 that would have to be sourced from other areas.

He added the full stakeholder report has been received by all governing body members and its recommendations considered.

The CCG will be discussing the decision at DCC’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee meeting on Monday, September 14, before any changes are implemented. It also intends to hold talks with key stakeholders in the near future.

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