• West Hill Parish Council Chair’s letter to Ottery mayor explaining hospital working group plan

    19th November 2018 | News | Claire
  • Dear Paul

    Thank you for your email and copy of your open letter to the Ottery Herald.

    Perhaps it would be useful for me to explain some of the background as to why I have supported the formation of a Working group under the aegis of OSMTC.

    Let me say at the outset that my only aim is to do everything possible to secure a viable future for Ottery Hospital, and my medical background means I feel I have something to contribute. It is clear that this will need many different groups working together. I have no interest in any of the politics of the matter.

    I have been a member of the Health & Care Forum for some years, firstly representing West Hill Residents’ Association, and latterly West Hill Parish Council. Other commitments have prevented me from attending recent meetings of the Forum, but I have received Minutes and am aware of Elli and Leigh’s attempts to communicate with NHS Property Services, the CCG, RD&E and others in order to secure the future of Ottery Hospital.

    I attended a meeting on 30th July called by Elli Pang & Leigh Edwards for representatives of parish councils within the Coleridge Medical Centre catchment area. This was to report on the “Community Conversation” held in June, also to gain formal support from parish councils.

    There was much debate at this meeting about the best way forward. Elli & Leigh reported that NHS Property Services wished to negotiate with a properly constituted body – e.g. a town council, or a community interest company.

    At that time I understood from Elli that OSMTC were not prepared to undertake sole responsibility for this (understandably). There was discussion at the meeting about setting up a CIC, but this was felt to be premature and requiring too much commitment without knowledge of the implications. I (and others at the meeting) emphasised that it was crucial to get the support of both the Coleridge Medical Centre GPs and the Ottery Hospital League of Friends in any future negotiations.

    Those attending the meeting were requested to ask for a “formal agreement from Parish Councils in the CMC catchment area to work together and to support work to establish a Hub for Ottery, and to support retention of hospital premises.” West Hill Parish Council discussed this issue at our Council Meeting on 7th August. It was agreed that WHPC was generally supportive of these efforts.

    During August Geoff Pratt contacted Elli to offer his support, and he also contacted me to set up a meeting with himself, Elli & Leigh. We met on 26th September. A further meeting was organised on 25th October, which was also attended by Claire Wright, as County Councillor and member of DCC Health & Adult Care Scrutiny Committee. This was to try and make progress in forming an effective group to take negotiations forward to secure a future for the hospital.

    The Health and Care Forum, despite best efforts, has not managed to achieve any effective communication with the CMC GPs or with the League of Friends, and Elli and Leigh have been calling for a different organisation to be set up. As it seemed that OSMTC was not able to undertake this role on its own, it was suggested that OSMTC could set up a Working Group which could have non-councillor members (something analogous to the Neighbourhood Plan Working Group).

    This would have the advantage of being a formal OSMTC body, but with the ability to include other members, in particular other parish council representatives, EDDC or DCC councillors, CMC GPs, League of Friends, and other interested people. If successful, some sort of more formal body, e.g. a charitable trust or community interest company would need to be set up in the future to run the Health & Wellbeing Hub, or an outside body brought in to run the Hub (as happened in Budleigh).

    This is why Geoff Pratt proposed the formation of a Working Group at the OSMTC meeting on 6th November.

    I hope the above provides some background, and why it is not the case that existing organisations are in a position to make progress on this matter.

    Yours sincerely

    Dr Margaret Hall
    West Hill Parish Council