• Ottery residents vote of no confidence in hospital closure plans – Devon NHS is in crisis

    7th November 2014 | News | Claire
  • The vote, which was proposed by James Goddard, chair of Save Ottery Hospital campaign group, took place at the end of the consultation meeting last night, at Ottery St Mary Football Club.

    Around 150 people turned up to the event, with around 40 or so standing at the back of the room.  Many had to be turned away as the room was at capacity.

    The meeting was chaired by Dr David Jenner and a presentation was given by local GP, Dr Simon Kerr, about the challenges facing the local NHS and why Ottery’s beds were set to be transferred to other community hospitals in East Devon.

    Around £500,000 a year would be saved by “consolidating” beds, said Dr Kerr.

    The four main challenges are:
    Money – the CCG will be overspent by around £29m next year. It is one of the most financially challenged health trusts in the country and is known to the Department of Health for this reason.
    Staff – there is a shortage of GPs, nurses in particular. And the rules have tightened on staffing – patient ratios since the Mid Staffordshire debacle
    Population –difficulties relating to increasing numbers of older frail people who need medical care. What we are seeing here in East Devon is similar to what the rest of the country are likely to see in 2042.
    Inequity – people in Ottery living on average 10 years longer than people in Ilfracombe.

    Then it was over to the public.

    Residents made intelligent and well-informed comments.

    Philip Algar suggested that paperwork he had seen showed that Ottery Hospital was selected at an early stage to lose its beds. He said that everyone in the room had been insulted because no financial information had been provided with the consultation document.

    Chris Poole wanted to know whether the money had to be paid back.

    He was told that money did have to be paid back and that the CCG had special arrangements with the Department of Health for repayment.

    Chair of the hospital’s league of friends, Adrian Rutter, told the meeting that local people had fundraised about £100,000 for the hospital and understandably, felt it belonged to them.  He wanted to know why Ottery had been selected.

    Dr Rob Daniels went through the reasons, which largely related to Ottery having a largely healthy population which was mainly not deprived.

    One resident referred to the closure of the hospital being a “betrayal” of Ottery residents.

    Angela Glanville spoke about the cost to the community of the bed losses and the value of having beds available in Ottery for Ottery people.

    Retired Ottery GP, Dr Tim Cox, talked about the importance of having beds available for care of the dying and that although many people do wish to die at home, sometimes it just isn’t possible and a bed at Ottery Hospital is the closest thing to dying at home.

    Ottery town councillor, Martin Thurgood, spoke about the need to consider alternatives to closing beds and losing the minor injuries unit, at Ottery Hospital. He said the plans were “piecemeal” and explained that whatever work RD&E carried out in terms of surgery, the CCG had no option but to pay for.  It was partly this that had resulted in the huge deficit.

    Cllr Roger Giles said he thought that the Northern Devon Healthcare Trust’s plans for a stroke unit were a PR exercise and no more than a stay of execution.  He explained that when he and I visited Dr Rob Daniels and Dr Justin Geddes (who were very helpful) to hear in a detailed way about why Ottery was selected for bed losses, we disputed much of what we were told, particularly from a planning (development) perspective.

    Another resident spoke of the pressures that Cranbrook would create, especially as a GP surgery had not yet been agreed to be provided there.  CCG managing director, John Finn, confirmed that NHS England would have a GP surgery operating at Cranbrook in the first quarter of next year.

    I said that things were obviously desperate and that I was reeling from hearing on the news this morning that the NHS in Devon was going to be in debt by an incomprehensible £430m in five years time.

    I said that there seemed to be contradictions, with promises that there would be no bed losses overall in East Devon, yet the consultation document indicated that there would be “significant” bed losses in time, if there was agreement that the hospital at home scheme was working. 

    Also that the main reason for change was financial challenge, yet the costs of running a hospital at home scheme could be almost £1m a year. And the cost of setting up a health and wellbeing hub could be in the region of £1m, as it had been at Budleigh Salterton. There the league of friends had contributed about half that amount.  I couldn’t see any savings to be made by cutting the beds at Ottery.

    I asked if the reasons for the massive financial problems was due to the NHS being starved of funds by the government.

    But Dr David Jenner disallowed my question as he said it was political!

    Question aside, what I know for certain is that in the nineties and noughties around 6-8 per cent of funding growth was regularly pumped into the NHS.

    What we’re seeing now is no more than three per cent growth.  Only fractionally above inflation.

    And in the past few years demand due to a more elderly unwell population, coupled with housing growth, has put intolerable pressure on the NHS in Devon.

    If we are going to save our local NHS from complete meltdown we are going to need to apply huge pressure on our rather complacent local MPs, who tend not fight for our health services at a national level.

    Instead they prefer to criticise the local NHS organisations for supposedly mismanaging their finances , which conveniently deflects attention away from their own government’s appalling record on public services.

    In Devon the shameful fragmentation of NHS services, along with a monumentally expensive reorganisation under the Health and Social Care Act, has paved the way for our precious NHS to be quietly privatised by the back door.

    Our NHS (along with many other precious services) has been sold down the river by this government, which simultaneously pretends it has protected it.

    In East Devon, the MP to write to is Hugo Swire. His email address is .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    I remain hopeful that we can save Ottery Hospital.