• A deliberate attempt to hinder scrutiny of controversial Devon hospital bed cutbacks?

    30th August 2014 | News | Claire
  • In an email to Devon County (DCC) councillors yesterday (Friday), a senior North, East and West Clinical Commissioning Group (NEW Devon CCG) manager confirms:  “More detailed proposals for the future of community services in Eastern Devon are due to be revealed on 17 September 2014.”

    The following day – Thursday 18 September – Devon County Council’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee (of which I am a member) is set to examine the proposals!

    NHS managers had previously said at an EDDC overview and scrutiny meeting in June, that the detailed plans would be released at the beginning of August. But when no plans appeared, independent councillor, Roger Giles, queried their whereabouts at EDDC’s overview and scrutiny meeting earlier this month.

    Now an email confirms (staggeringly) that they will be released ONE DAY before councillors are set to scrutinise proposals.

    I am sure that many people will see this as a deeply cynical move on behalf of the NHS. 

    If the CCG expects Devon County Council’s health scrutiny committee to accept a document that contains plans for the biggest changes to community services in a generation – just hours before it is due to scrutinise it – it will be disappointed.

    Myself, chairman, Cllr Richard Westlake and the health scrutiny officer have asked time and time again that NHS organisations (not just NEW Devon CCG) to provide documentation for the committee with the agenda papers, so councillors have the information in good time to read it thoroughly and prepare suitable questions.

    Unfortunately, what we find happens frequently, is that verbal presentations are given with handouts, papers are emailed a day in advance, or are simply tabled.

    This repeated and careless disregard for a vital process that examines what is often a rather opaque business, can seriously hinder effective scrutiny.

    But I think this announcement trumps everything I have seen so far.

    If the NHS values and respects the scrutiny process – as it supposed to, it should stop playing PR games and attempting to control “noise” and negative publicity.  Doing so is likely to backfire anyway.

    Matters will not rest here.

    See early NHS thoughts on changes at East Devon community hospitals, from a paper to EDDC overview and scrutiny committee in June – http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/closure_of_in_patient_beds_possible_at_three_east_devon_community_hospitals 

    Photograph: Ottery St Mary Hospital, which may be at risk.