I have written to @CllrIanThomas, incoming EDDC leader, for assurances on health services and hospitals, after Conservative amendment leaves East Devon community hospitals vulnerable to closure
In a debate at EDDC on Wednesday Independent East Devon Alliance councillor, Marianne Rixson, proposed a motion ‘requesting the NHS organisations to observe the following principles:
1. All community hospitals which have lost beds should be maintained as health hubs.
2. Wherever possible, services and clinics should be moved out of Exeter to local community hospitals.
3. More outpatient services should be provided in each community hospital, with no overall cuts to the level of services in any town in order to minimise complex journeys between towns.’
I was disappointed to hear that this motion was completely replaced by an ‘amendment’ (left) proposed by Conservative Councillor Mike Allen, which was then carried.
I have written the letter below to express my concerns to incoming Council leader, Ian Thomas, the member for Trinity ward, to ask him to join me in pressing for each of our hospitals to be kept as a hub for outpatient services.
LETTER TO IAN THOMAS
Belated congratulations on your nomination to lead EDDC, which I assume will be agreed at the Annual Meeting in a fortnight’s time. I am writing following last week’s Council resolution on health, to ask for your clear support for keeping all community hospitals in East Devon as health hubs. As this is a matter of great public interest, I shall make this letter public.
Since I could not be present at the meeting, I will not comment on the procedure adopted, except to inform you that members of the public have complained to me about the way Cllr Rixson’s motion was ‘amended’ by Cllr Allen. My concern is rather that the resolution potentially increases the vulnerability of some of our community hospitals to closure when the CCG announces its Local Estates Strategy.
I welcome the resolution’s call for the CCG to provide ‘evidence-based forward plan of proposed changes to health services in East Devon, for initial discussion at a future Cabinet’, and the reference to ‘consultation with local communities’ about community hospitals, as well as the review of service changes (bed-based to home/community-based care). You will need to press hard on the latter, as Claire Wright has been asking for it repeatedly without success at DCC.
My worry is that the resolution removes the benchmark assurances that Cllr Rixson’s motion sought. While the resolution says that all efforts should be made, in consultation with local communities, to ensure the existing estate of community hospitals is retained for health care purposes, it only recommends that, Where appropriate, the potential development of “Health Hubs” be investigated.
Unfortunately this can clearly be read as implying that hubs will not necessarily be appropriate in every hospital – and that EDDC might therefore accept the closure of those hospitals which are not developed as hubs.
I remind you that when the Conservatives fought the County elections last year, you said you wanted ‘bed-less hospital buildings adapted to accommodate new health-related services and boost community health provision‘. There was no suggestion of any exceptions then.
I would like you to give an explicit assurance that you will join me in pressing for
(1) each of the hospitals which has lost its beds (Axminster, Honiton, Ottery and Seaton), as well as Exmouth and Sidmouth, to be kept open;
(2) achievement in each hospital of the ‘boost’ in health provision which your 2017 policy rightly asked for – and any in any case no overall cut in services in any of them; and
(3) a formal public consultation in the affected town and surrounding area should a closure of any community hospital, involving substantial relocation of outpatient services, be proposed.