The meeting, which took place at county hall on Tuesday 11 March, heard that the paper had been delayed by a month or so and now should be published at the end of March instead.

The proposals are likely to involve bed closures, as the NHS moves to provide more care at home, or as close to home, as possible.

The reason for delay in publishing the paper, known as “transforming community services” was said to be a need for further consultation with communities, this month.

The paper submitted to the committee stated that the New Devon clinical commissioning group now intended to present its strategy to the June meeting of the health and wellbeing overview and scrutiny committee.

This would not seem an unreasonable plan, given that is the committee’s next scheduled meeting. However, I could see from studying the timetable on page two of the agenda papers that the proposals must be submitted to NHS England at the end of June.

This meant any recommendations made by the committee would have barely any time to be considered by the NHS, let alone changes made to the document.

I expressed real concern about this and proposed that a special committee meeting took place in April to scrutinise the strategy fully – and with time for recommendations to be taken on board and changes made. 

But chairman, Cllr Richard Westlake said that he would prefer an all day “spotlight review” instead, the outcome of which would be made public later.

I disagreed with this way forward because spotlight reviews are held without the press and public present and I believe strongly that scrutiny, especially on an issue like this, which is likely to be one of the most, if not the most significant changes in a generation to our community health services, should be held in the public domain.

Cllr Westlake replied that the NHS would be asked to make amendments to their proposals if recommendations were made at this spotlight review, which would then be on the agenda for our 16 June committee meeting.  Several councillors agreed with this approach.

It is not clear how things could be remedied if the committee’s recommendations were not fully taken on board. By 16 June, the deadline for submission to NHS England would be extremely close.

The two NHS presenters said that they had not been aware of the end of June deadline for submission of the paperwork, until recently.

Last week, the Midweek Herald carried a story about Honiton Hospital’s minor injuries unit and how NHS managers had raised the possibility of it providing a service for other nearby community hospitals.

Currently Ottery Hospital has a minor injuries service, although the hours have gradually been cut back over the years, as have the beds.

As soon as I have a copy of the strategy, I will publish it on my blog.

You can view the webcast below (it is the first item on the agenda), however, the webcast is currently out of kilter. I have asked for this to be remedied and hope that it will be very soon.

http://www.devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/119665 – link to the health and wellbeing overview and scrutiny committee, that took place on 6 March.

Healthwatch, a channel for residents to express their views of NHS services, is awaiting the proposals and will look forward to hearing people’s views. See the link for more information – http://www.healthwatchdevon.co.uk/

Outside Ottery St Mary Hospital.