Dear Mr Parish,
Like most people in Seaton and the Axe Valley I am alarmed at the two options in the NEW Devon NHS Clinical Commissioning Group’s consultation on community hospitals which would remove all beds from Seaton Hospital. Therefore I am glad that you will be speaking at the public meeting in Seaton Town Hall on Friday 4th November to discuss these proposals.
I was surprised, however, that in the parliamentary debate on the NHS in Devon (18th October) you focused entirely on Honiton hospital and did not even mention Seaton. Certainly, the threat to Honiton is greater: it would lose all its beds under all 4 options consulted on, whereas under 2 options, including the one the CCG prefers, Seaton would keep its beds.
However there is a serious threat to Seaton. Your colleague Hugo Swire, MP for East Devon, says that if it is necessary to choose between the 4 options the CCG has put on the table, ‘option B, which sees the beds retained in Tiverton, and also in Sidmouth and Exmouth, is the option worthy of support’. This would mean Seaton losing its beds.
Against this false choice between Seaton and Sidmouth, you were absolutely right to say: ‘I really feel that all our MPs across the whole of Devon need to unite, because over the last two years the number of beds in our community hospitals has been halved. I rather fear that we will be standing here in two years’ time saying that they have been halved again. Rather than fighting between each other over which hospitals are kept open and which are closed, let us fight all the closures across Devon. Otherwise we are just being picked off one by one, Minister, and this is not the way to run a health service in Devon.’
However I put it to you that the only way we will not be forced to choose is if the Government finds more money for the NHS. The NEW Devon CCG’s deficit stands at £122 million and is careering towards £384 million by 2020. To offset this, the CCG’s ‘Success Regime’ – a strikingly Orwellian name – is desperately looking to cut costs, but all the ‘efficiency savings’ in the world will not deal with the problem.
Nursing costs for 16 beds in a community hospital are £914,000 per year. 24 beds may cost £1.32 million. Clearly even closing all community beds would still leave the CCG looking for huge savings elsewhere. A year ago I developed a hernia and was told the CCG policy was that I should try to live with it. The advice was rescinded and I had my operation, but I fear many people with ‘routine’ conditions will soon receive similar advice if the Government does not act.
NHS funding is a problem across Devon and the whole of England. The RD&E Trust and the Torbay and South Devon CCG are also in deficit. Nationally NHS bodies have combined deficits of £2.45 billion and rising. The Head of the NHS in England, Simon Stevens, told Parliament this week that the NHS has not been given the minimum funding it needs to meet its commitments in 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20.
Apparently the Prime Minister has told Mr Stevens the NHS must live with the allocated money and follow the example of the Home Office in making savings. Mr Stevens replied that ‘while crime had fallen in recent years, demand for NHS care had risen, was still growing and would continue upward. For example, demand for cancer care had risen 55% over the past five years.’ The Royal College of Physicians says, ‘demand increases by 4% every year but, in real terms, NHS funding will increase by only 0.2% per year to 2020.’ The independent Kings Fund agrees: ‘The principal cause of the deficit is the fact that funding has not kept pace with demand.’
Will you now recognise that we need a serious change in Government policy if every year we are not going to face further bed closures and other cuts? The majority of people in East Devon voted to leave the European Union, and many believed the claim (which Boris Johnson backed) that the NHS could gain an extra £350 million a week. It is now clear that leaving the EU will not produce this sort of money – but these Leave voters were absolutely right to think that the NHS needs a lot more.
When the new Chancellor announced he was dropping the target of ending the national deficit by 2020, many hoped there would be extra funding for the NHS in his Autumn Statement. The Prime Minister has now ruled this out. Yet there are many ways that money could be found: halt HS2, rule out a third runway for Heathrow, outlaw offshore trusts, make global corporations pay the right tax in the UK.
If, as you say, ‘all our MPs across the whole of Devon need to unite’, what are they going to unite for? Not, surely, just to criticise the Success Regime’s consultation document. The problem is bigger than the CCG. The only answer that makes sense is more Government funding.
A year ago, many of us were impressed when you defied the Government over tax credit cuts. The NHS crisis is an even bigger issue, which affects us all. We are relying on you, as our MP, to make clear publicly that the funding situation is not acceptable. Will you now take the lead in demanding that the Chancellor amends his spending plans to provide the NHS with adequate funds, and directs a large chunk to Devon?