In Devon the buildings are very much at risk. Most small hospitals have lost beds, and sadly around five hospitals have been closed, or are in the process of being closed at the current time.

More closures are likely to follow, which is what prompted my motion, which was urging councillors to strongly support the retention of all community hospital buildings and oppose any plans to sell them off, was not supported by Devon County Council’s all Conservative cabinet, last month, who claimed it was a matter for the NHS and did not take account of old buildings.

This argument came up in yesterday’s debate. My response was simple. That we needed one clear policy and one clear message. And if the NHS wanted to close an old dilapidated building then it must make a case to do so and the Health Scrutiny Committee would review this proposal and give a view accordingly.

Leader, John Hart, asked us to delete “all community hospitals” and instead insert “where appropriate” which would have meant in our view, that the NHS could drive a coach and horses through the motion. We refused.

An hour long debate ensued. The Labour and Libdem groups argued that our motion should be supported.

Eventually, the Conservatives voted down our motion and quickly moved an amendment with their get out clause – ‘where appropriate.’

The final version of my motion, after it was amended twice is as follows:

“That council welcomes the statement by the Health Secretary at the Conservative Party Conference that the “era of blindly, invariably closing community hospitals is over” and therefore, while this is a matter for the NHS, this council will work in partnership to influence decision-making in the direction of retaining all community hospitals, where appropriate, to be used as health and wellbeing centres.”

This was supported.

The words don’t go as far as I would like but it is at least better than what we had before, which was no council wide policy or position.

I am hopeful, that with the motion and the Secretary of State for Health’s new position on community hospitals, that we have an improved chance of fighting off further closures.

Here’s Cllr Martin Shaw’s blog post on the debate – https://seatonmatters.org/2018/10/05/claire-wright-and-i-win-a-commitment-from-the-county-council-to-work-to-save-all-devons-community-hospitals-although-the-conservatives-cant-stop-themselves-adding-get-out-clauses/

And here’s the webcast. See item 15 for the itemised webcast. You may get to see your own county councillor give their view….  https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/362675

Pic:  Me arguing for the motion at yesterday’s full council. To my right is my Independent colleague, Martin Shaw. To my left is my other Independent colleague, Frank Biederman.