East Devon District Councillors were told at a meeting with NEWDevon Clinical Commissioning Group doctors on 24 September at The Knowle, that a reason for East Devon community hospitals to lose all their in-patient beds was because some of the hospitals were “considered unsafe”.
Cllr Roger Giles (Ottery Town – Independent) expressed concern at this comment, and asked which of the community hospitals in East Devon were considered unsafe. Dr Mike Slot said that he had mis-spoken.
He said Axminster, Ottery and Seaton Hospitals were not unsafe at the moment, but at risk of becoming unsafe because they were only running 10 beds each. He said that guidance coming down said that it was unsafe to have people working alone at night, and hospitals with small numbers of beds were less resilient at times of holidays and sickness.
The comments about the lack of viability, and the claimed potential unsafe level of beds provided, fully justify past concerns expressed by Roger Giles and Claire Wright, and others including local GPs, over a long period about the reduction in beds at Ottery St Mary Hospital.
The number of beds at Ottery Hospital was 24 not so very long ago. Fears were regularly expressed that progressive reductions in the number of beds provided at Ottery was becoming a slippery slope in which a health manager would eventually decide that the number of beds was no longer viable – and to seek to close the hospital.
The question is, whether the reduction of Ottery’s and other community hospital’s beds was a result of clinical or political decision-making.