THE chief executive of the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital (RD&E) has welcomed proposals to integrate all elements of health and social care.

That’s despite the fact that the move could lead to bed closures in the longer term.

The North, East and West Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which is £14m in debt, unveiled its plans on Wednesday, September 17.

In East and Mid Devon Ottery St Mary, Axminster and Crediton are set to lose beds with Ottery also set to lose its Minor Injuries Unit, threatening the future of the hospital.

Yet despite telling Devon County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee that the hospital was “running out of capacity”, in a statement the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust backed the CCG’s reasoning for the changes, stating that the current model of provision is “simply not sustainable or affordable”.

RD&E chief executive Angela Pedder described the proposals as “exciting and sensible” and said the integrated approach would “better meet the needs” of patients and was in line with the hospital’s own strategic objectives.

Yet currently around two thirds of dischargeable patients require a bed in a community hospital – since 2012 an average of around 52 patients a day – with no space available.

Mrs Pedder, said: “Although the total number of beds commissioned by the CCG may reduce over the longer term, we welcome the fact that there are no plans to make any significant bed reductions until the CCG is confident new integrated systems of community care are in place to allow more patients to be treated at home or in other care settings.

“Like other hospitals in the region, the RD&E has been experiencing very challenging operational and capacity pressures but our staff are responding superbly and ensuring our usual high standards of patient safety and care are consistently maintained.”

The CCG’s Transforming Community Services document for Eastern Devon explains that the healthcare vision is for a model where community healthcare is more closely integrated with social care.

It also explains that the aim is to improve care in the community, increasing the number of healthcare professionals and therefore close hospital beds to fund this change.

Budleigh Salterton and Moretonhampstead hospitals have already been identified as becoming health and well being hubs without inpatient beds.

And plans to close the 15 community stroke beds at Exmouth and Crediton are already in place.

Inpatient units with the flexibility to expand provision to cope with the seasonal pressures would be in Exeter, Exmouth, Tiverton, Okehampton, Seaton, Sidmouth and Honiton.

Ottery St Mary ward member, Councillor Claire Wright, who is also a member of Devon County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee said:“The case is completely unconvincing.

“When I asked the CCG’s chief executive in June how much the new model would cost, they hadn’t got the figures yet were submitting the document to NHS England.

“From a common sense point of view, if you have health practitioners travelling all over the place, the service will cost more.

“The local health service is pursuing an ideological way forward rather than the right way forward for patients.

“It’s counter intuitive to say that these bed losses are not going to have a significant impact on being able to discharge patients to community hospital beds, because there are going to be fewer beds, it’s bound to have an impact.”

Cllr Wright and fellow Ottery St Mary town councillor Cllr Roger Giles have organised a meeting at the Institute in the town at 7.30pm on Tuesday, October 7, for people to discuss the proposals with them.