• Ottery St Mary Hospital - my response to our MP’s latest mud slinging

    13th June 2016 | News | Claire
  • Fortunately, I now have a full internet connection and below is my reaction. 

    Mr Swire seems angry that around 250 people came along to my demonstration at Ottery Hospital last month and didn’t believe his claims that the Secretary of State’s for Health’s new private company – NHS Property Services is entirely well meaning and benign. 

    Residents present were sceptical of his assertions that the company is only acquiring community hospitals (currently owned by local NHS organisations) and charging high market rents, in order to help maintain the buildings.

    I held the demonstration on 21 May, as I am outraged by the news that NHS Property Services is to help itself to Ottery Hospital and 11 others in Eastern Devon.  NHS PS has a remit for selling off hospital buildings that are “surplus to requirements.”

    Mr Swire unexpectedly turned up at the protest, which he is quite entitled to do and asked to address the crowd after me, which I readily agreed to.

    His response (which received heckling and jeering from the crowd) largely related to claiming that Ottery Hospital is entirely safe and that NHS PS wouldn’t and couldn’t sell it off.

    My question, which I have asked repeatedly of NHS PS and of Mr Swire – what happens if the local NHS (which is around £80m in debt) can’t pay the rent, still remains unanswered.

    My request to NHS PS, which has offered me similar assurances to Mr Swire, to view the draft terms and conditions of the contract, so I can satisfy myself that Ottery Hospital’s building is safe, has been refused.

    I am reliably informed that elsewhere in the country community hospital buildings acquired by NHS PS have remained shut, with health clinics having to be held in church halls because of unaffordable rents, totalling around £500,000 a year.  Before being seized by NHS PS, local health trusts owned the buildings so no rent was payable.

    In Ottery’s case local people raised around £250,000 just 20 years ago to assist with the new hospital building.

    Yet Mr Swire has suggested that the community should take out a long term lease in order to protect the hospital – from his own government?

    The fact that the responsibility for maintaining community hospital buildings is now shifting from the local NHS to a politically appointed government minister, is also very relevant and has worrying implications.
    So that’s the background. What has Mr Swire asserted since?

    Well, firstly, he has accused me of “scaremongering” and “weaponising” the issue for my “own political advancement.”

    I will not lower myself to respond to these silly comments.

    He then goes onto claim that Budleigh Salterton is a good example of a community hospital turned into a health hub … but omits to mention that Budleigh Salterton Hospital remains shut because of ownership issues wrangling related to NHS PS taking over the hospital later this year and charging unaffordable rents!

    Our MP’s derisory response to the problem doesn’t end here. Mr Swire has even insulted all the protesters at my demonstration on 21 May. He announced in his column in the East Devon press two weeks ago, also reproduced on his blog, that the residents who attended were a “left leaning pack that follow Councillor Claire Wright.”

    Ottery St Mary Town Council is so angry about this remark that it will write to Mr Swire to complain.

    I intend to fight the very dubious intentions of NHS PS all the way. This is just the beginning.

    NHS Property Services is on the agenda at Devon County Council’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee (of which I am a member) on Monday 20 June at 2pm. Please come along to County Hall and observe or watch online via the council’s website if you would like to know more. If you wish to address the committee you will need to register asap.

    Some constituencies have MPs who fight their corner. It is a shame that East Devon’s MP is only interested in defending the indefensible actions of his government, which appears to be on a mission to degrade the NHS further each year.