• NHS bed closures under scrutiny as hospital reveals problem

    19th September 2014 | News | Claire
  • Plans to close community hospital beds in Devon have come under scrutiny less than 24 hours after the announcement.

    The North, East and West Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (NEW Devon CCG), which is £14m in debt, unveiled its bed closure programme at its annual general meeting on Wednesday.

    Yesterday, Devon County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee criticised the proposals and called for financial information to be released by NHS officials.

    The meeting heard that Axminster, Crediton and Ottery St Mary are to close beds at a time when the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital said it was already running out of capacity.

    Ilfracombe, South Molton, Torrington, Bideford and Holsworthy could also lose beds while Sidmouth and Ottery St Mary are to see minor injury units replaced by urgent care centres.

    Campaigners have already criticised NHS proposals to get rid of beds from three cottage hospitals and potentially remove in-patient services at another five.

    The announcement comes as at least one major acute hospital was struggling with beds.

    As the move came under scrutiny yesterday, officials from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital told county councillors they were “running out of capacity” with 60 in-patients who didn’t need acute care and were blocking beds.

    Councillor Claire Wright, a member of the scrutiny committee, who is also bidding to become the MP for East Devon at the general election, told the Western Morning News: “The Royal Devon and Exeter appears to have a significant problem with discharging people from hospital and we have requested more information.

    “Common sense would suggest we need more community hospital beds not fewer but we need to see the details.”

    In launching a 12-week consultation before any decision is made, the NEW Devon CCG said around 22,000 people patients it treats would reach the age of 75 within the next seven years, increasing demand on current services.

    It said the proposed changes were not being made to save money in its £1.1bn annual budget, although it ended the last financial year with a £14.7m deficit.

    Dr David Jenner, a GP and chair of the CCG’s Eastern Locality, said the proposals would help make community health services are sustainable now and in the future.

    “The way community services are run at the moment simply won’t cope with this demand,” he added.

    “If not addressed quickly, we know that the number of over 65s admitted to hospital will rise by two per cent each year. The document we are launching today aims to address this.”

    Andrew Moulding, county councillor for Axminster, said there “had not been a two-way dialogue” prior to the publication of the plans.

    “GPs feel there is no substitute for 24-hour care – two have contacted me since the decision to vent their concerns and said there has been a lack of meaningful discussion,” he told the meeting at County Hall.

    “The consultation seemed to be a reporting mechanism for decisions already made – in other words a done deal.”

    The committee is set to meet in private with NHS officials prior to a second scrutiny meeting in November.