• Devon County Council cabinet rejects my motion to back retention of community hospital buildings

    12th September 2018 | News | Claire
  • Responding to the cabinet recommendation to full council to “note that this is a matter for the NHS” I said that it was entirely appropriate and proper that the council should take a position on this, that the loss of beds in our community hospitals was one of the most controversial issues of recent times.

    Over 200 community hospital beds have been lost since 2012, to thousands of people protesting, either in person, in writing, or at demonstrations waving placards.

    Now NHS Property Services has ‘acquired’ 12 community hospitals in Eastern Devon and is charging around £3m a year, which is currently being paid for by NHS England. However, this is only a temporary arrangement and NHS England will not cover this (absurd) cost long-term.

    I pointed out that Devon County Council administers the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee (that I am a member of) which is the only legal check on health services in Devon.  It is clear that local people are relying on councillors to stand up for them and represent their views.
    I even read out a passage from the Local Government Association website which defined a councillor’s primary role as representing their ward and the people who live in it. 

    I was supported by other councillors attending the meeting, including Martin Shaw (my Indie colleague who seconded the motion), Alistair Dewhirst (Libdem), Rob Hannaford (Labour) and Carol Whitton (Labour).

    Unusually, almost all members of the cabinet spoke on this issue. All were opposed for a variety of reasons, including claims that we cannot influence the NHS in this way, that the CCG is excellent to work with and that Holsworthy and Okehampton Hospitals are being retained, so all the community needs to do is work to achieve this.

    It isn’t quite this simple in my experience!

    Even Phil Norrey, the chief executive added his view, which was that any capital receipts (funding that is the result of a sale) should be retained locally.  A sensible point and a good backstop position.

    I wasn’t able to respond to these points as I had already had my say, but there was absolutely no argument made by any cabinet councillor that justified their rejection on my motion.

    The full cabinet recommendation is as follows:  “That council be asked to note that this is a matter for the NHS but this council will work in partnership to influence decision making appropriate to individual circumstances, including population need and the quality of building.”

    I look forward to 4 October, full council, when the motion will be debated and determined by all 60 councillors.

    Here’s the webcast. See item 12, with the list of councillor names that you can click on to see what they had to say! – https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/357842

    If you disagree with the cabinet recommendation, please do feel free to email your local councillor!

    Pic:  Kicking off speeches at an NHS rally in Exeter in February, where community hospitals were high on the agenda