The Wakely Stakeholder Reference Group, of which I am a member, consisting of councillors, leagues of friends representatives and local doctors, has recommended in a report that will be published on Thursday (21 May):
1. That inpatient beds are retained in each hospital – 72 (plus 16 stroke beds) in total across Ottery St Mary, Honiton, Sidmouth, Seaton and Axminster.
2. There is a GP led minor injury service in each of the towns, as well as a centralised urgent care service in Honiton, for out of hours needs.
The group, which was established by the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) earlier this year, has also stated that any change in care provision until the NHS five year forward view would be premature and counterproductive.
The long-term plan has, so far, been to relocate Ottery Hospital’s stroke beds to the RD&E. I received assurances at last night’s meeting, however, that if any further change is proposed to the current arrangements, there will be further consultation.
There was enormous public protest and hundreds of written objections to the proposed loss of beds at both Ottery and Axminster Hospitals, which was announced by the CCG last September.
A public meeting organised by Cllr Roger Giles and I last October, was attended by well over 200 anxious and angry Ottery St Mary residents, who gave their views in the strongest possible terms that they wished to see Ottery Hospital retain its beds and minor injuries service.
As a member of Devon County Council’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee, I have been examining such proposals closely as they have emerged.
It has certainly been clear to me, that any cost saving of hospital bed closures have been rapidly swallowed up by provision of alternative services in the remaining hospital building.
During my campaign for the East Devon parliamentary seat, my survey, which around 500 people contributed to, found that the NHS was the most important issue by far. Protecting local health services became one of my key pledges, as a result.
The outcome as outlined above is an excellent one and the members of the group from five towns, have worked really well together on coming up with workable solutions to the difficulties.
I particularly thank Martin Thurgood, who expertly stood in for me while I was campaigning in the general election.
If it wasn’t for the mass protest by Ottery St Mary residents, this stakeholder group would almost certainly never have been set in motion and Ottery’s beds would have been lost for good.
Instead, as a result of local people’s passionately expressed views and determination, we have a clear and sensible direction that the clinical commissioning group would be unwise to ignore.
The NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group will consider the recommendations at its board meeting on 27 May (details to be confirmed).
The decision will then be examined by Devon County Council’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee on Thursday 18 June.
I am hopeful that the NEW Devon CCG will endorse the recommendations and safeguard our precious community hospital services into the future.