Month: October 2018

@philtwiss’claim that @SonjaManton said ‘there are no plans to close any community hospitals in our area’, not backed up by @NEWDevonCCG. What’s the explanation, Phil?

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Phil TwissConservative County Councillor for Honiton, Phil Twiss (right), told Devon County Council on 4th October that ‘Sonja Manton [Director of Strategy for the Devon Clinical Commissioning Groups] said at the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee the other week that there no plans to close any community hospitals in our area. We were talking about Seaton, Honiton and Axminster at the time.’

I was surprised that he should give us this good news in passing, and that the CCG had made no announcement of something so obviously important. So eventually I watched the webcast of the Health Scrutiny meeting on September 20th. Although Sonja Manton spoke several times, I couldn’t find her saying anything like what Phil said – indeed anything about community hospitals at all.

So I emailed Sonja and she confirms she didn’t speak about the hospitals. As for the issue, all she would say was, ‘I can assure you that our continued focus remains on planning and commissioning services and support to meet the needs of the Devon population in the best possible way. We recognise how strongly communities feel about community hospital buildings and will continue to work with communities and stakeholders to modernise and evolve the way our services are delivered and where they are based to make sure we make best use of all our resources and public estate.

So was Sonja more forthcoming at another, presumably private, meeting, Phil? Or was what you said wishful thinking?

EDDC fails to protect our community hospitals, offering specious justifications for failing to list Seaton Hospital as a ‘Community Asset’

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Jack Rowland photoOn Wednesday, Cllr Jack Rowland (right), Chair of Seaton Area Health Matters, questioned EDDC’s refusal to list Seaton Hospital as a Community Asset – which would have given Seaton Town Council, which made the request, additional grounds and time to object to any proposal for closure.

He was given the answer below. I think the reasons are specious. The guide to the Localism Act which is quoted does not claim to list all the types of buildings that can be covered, but merely gives examples. As the fact that two other Devon councils have listed hospitals shows, this is a question of interpretation. EDDC have chosen to interpret Community Assets narrowly, and then explain away the other councils’ decisions by the fact the hospitals concerned may be in relatively deprived areas, the reason North Devon gives for listing Ilfracombe – although this reason is not mentioned in the guide to the Localism Act, either!

Clearly community hospitals do, as the guide says, play a vital role in local life. … Local life would not be the same without them, and if they are closed or sold into private use, it can be a real loss to the community.” This is true regardless of how deprived the area is. Jack Rowland’s challenge has shown that once again, EDDC has defaulted to failing to protect our community hospitals.

EDDC’s ‘recorded reason’:

The main use of the property is the ‘care element’ which may be considered as furthering the social wellbeing or social interest of the community, however, this does not come within the scope of the Localism Act.

A plain English guide to the Localism Act, states:

“Every town, village or neighbourhood is home to buildings or amenities that play a vital role in local life. They might include community centres, libraries, swimming pools, village shops, markets or pubs. Local life would not be the same without them, and if they are closed or sold into private use, it can be a real loss to the community.”

In this case the nominated asset does not fall into the category of a Community Asset under s88 of the Localism Act and therefore should not be listed.

The Council believes that this interpretation of the law is correct as there is no evidence to suggest that community hospitals were in the mind of the legislator when the law was enacted. This is reinforced by the definition of ‘social interests’ in Section 88(6) of the Localism Act 2011 which states that it is, in particular, cultural, recreational or sporting interests. In addition there certainly appears to be no reference to community hospitals for example on any relevant websites. Had it been the intent of the legislator to include health care then one would have expected it to be listed in the relevant definition. It has also been confirmed that religious observance in a building does not fall within ‘social well-being’ and our view is that this is analogous to circumstances surrounding health care provision.

In the Case of North Devon Council they have helpfully published their reasoning for deciding that Ilfracombe hospital was an appropriate site to be registered under the community right to bid: https://www.northdevon.gov.uk/media/378607/decision-notice-tyrrel-hospital.pdf                                

In particular, considerable emphasis is put on the fact that Ilfracombe is an area of high deprivation and low car ownership in a rural locality. This justification has been used to justify a departure from the original legislative intention.

Teignbridge Council have not published any of their decisions but looking at the location of the relevant properties it would appear that the assets are similarly located in areas which experience the worst levels of deprivation in Devon: http://www.devonhealthandwellbeing.org.uk/jsna/overview/archive/socio-economic-deprivation/indices-of-deprivation-2015/

The same cannot be said to be the case in either Axminster, Honiton, Ottery St Mary or Seaton. In the circumstances therefore there is no justification for departing from the correct legal interpretation and any consequential risks’.

‘NHS vs Brexit’: on Sunday I joined 700,000 people to march against the shambles which is draining resources from our health system and public services

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NHS versus Brexit.jpgOn Sunday I marched in London with 700,000 other people to call for a chance to end the nightmare which Brexit has become – a mess which is sucking the lifeblood out of our country, draining resources from the NHS and public services and driving away many of the doctors and nurses we so desperately need in Devon.

I know many people in Seaton and Colyton supported Brexit in 2016, but surely you didn’t vote for the chaos which it is causing. Johnson, Gove and Farage didn’t tell you how difficult it was going to be – maybe they didn’t even understand themselves. It is time now for us to vote on whether we like the outcome.

Who’s ‘weaponising’ community hospitals, @HugoSwire? Two years ago you were happy to sell out Seaton Hospital to save your parliamentary career

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Hugo SwireDear Hugo Swire,

In a recent Exmouth Journal article you said“Regrettably, Ottery Hospital has been weaponised by an anti-Tory coalition for nigh on ten years with them telling a naturally alarmed local community that it will be sold off or closed. I have spent 10 years trying to counter this scaremongering. …”

It’s hardly scaremongering when the hospital has lost its beds and this July’s Devon NHS Sustainability and Transformation Partnership report said, ‘We know a large amount of space in our community hospital buildings is underused. The revenue cost of our community hospital estates is in the order of £20 million; money the NHS could use to improve other services. Working with other public sector partners, as part of the One Public Estate initiative, we will review the space that is required to deliver care, and plan to consolidate the number of sites to free up estate and generate money, which can be re-invested in technology and infrastructure.’ 

It’s also rich for you to talk about ‘weaponising’ community hospitals. In Seaton we remember all too well when the Clinical Commissioning Group launched its consultation on the future of community hospital beds in 2016, with its preferred option being Option A which would keep the beds in Tiverton, Exmouth and Seaton. You said in Parliament that ‘option B, which sees the beds retained in Tiverton, and also in Sidmouth and Exmouth, is the option worthy of support. Sidmouth has an extremely high proportion of over-85s, with people increasingly living longer, and of people with dementia. Exmouth is the biggest town in Devon with more than 35,000 people.’

Four months later the CCG followed your recommendation, changed its preference, and closed Seaton’s beds. The reasons given for preferring Sidmouth to Seaton were specious – Seaton has an almost identical proportion of elderly.  In short, Hugo Swire, you sold Seaton down the river because it was no longer in your constituency (having been removed due to boundary changes in 2010) and you needed to save beds in Sidmouth as well as Exmouth to fend off the challenge from Claire Wright, who even so ran you close in the 2017 General Election.

Today Seaton Hospital, like Ottery, Honiton and Axminster, faces an uncertain future. If it closes, it will be a knock-on effect of the beds decision, and it will be partly on your head.

Martin Shaw, County Councillor for Seaton and Colyton 

Why has EDDC refused to list Seaton and other community hospitals as ‘assets of community value’, when other Devon districts have done so? Jack Rowland will ask at the EDDC on Wednesday

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jack rowlandJack’s question:
EDDC has recently decided not to list Seaton Community Hospital as an asset of community value citing that it does not meet the definition of “social wellbeing”. EDDC has now declined requests from 3 community hospitals in the district giving the same reason each time. Please explain why other district councils in Devon have agreed to list community hospitals as assets of community value e.g. Tyrell Community Hospital in Ilfracombe, Moretonhampstead Community Hospital, Bovey Tracey Community Hospital and Teignmouth Community Hospital.
 
Why is EDDC interpreting the definition differently to neighbouring district councils on this important issue where our community hospitals may be under threat of being fully closed and sold in the future by NHS Property Services?

Seaton Area Health Matters reports on its activities to date

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Jack Rowland, chair of Seaton Area Health Matters, has sent me this report:

So, what have we been doing recently?

From conversations earlier this year when we invited representatives from the statutory and voluntary health sectors the following 10 priorities emerged:

  1. To take an area approach for the Axe Valley, not just Seaton.
  2. Improving communication and co-ordination between voluntary organisations.
  3. Maintaining and extending NHS services in GP practices and at Seaton Hospital.
  4. The challenges in older age groups (chronic diseases, loneliness and isolation).
  5. The challenges in younger age groups (drug and alcohol addiction, housing, poverty).
  6. Mental health support.
  7. Transport difficulties to access services.
  8. Promoting health and wellbeing 
  9. Communication on what is available.
  10. Co-ordination and ownership to tackle the challenges.

In order to look at these challenges a Steering Group was established and the membership is:

Jack Rowland (Chair) Seaton Town Councillor

Geoff Pook (Vice Chair) East Devon District Councillor

Marcus Hartnell East Devon District Councillor / Seaton Town Councillor

Victoria Parry Food & Wellbeing Charity / Clinical Commissioning Group Community Representative 

Martin Shaw Devon County Councillor / Seaton Town Councillor

Roger Trapani Clinical Commissioning Group Community Representative

Tina Trapani Devon Senior Voice Representative

Dr Mark Welland Seaton G.P. & Chair of Seaton Hospital League of Friends

From this steering group 2 working parties have been looking at these priorities as many of the challenges are inter-connected.

One working party is producing a report to put forward a case for maintaining and extending NHS services as part of a health hub. A meeting has been arranged for 5 November at Seaton Hospital with senior representatives from the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital.

The other working party has been collating information to establish the details of the voluntary organisations in our area that are involved in some way in health and well-being. The intention is to show the information, with the permission of the organisation, on this website and to also have a dedicated phone line available for people to use who may not have access to the internet. When the phone line is available we will publicise this on this website and by issuing a press release and using advertising posters around the town as well as social media.

We are also considering carrying out a Seaton Area survey to give everyone the opportunity to tell us their views on what they want to see in the area for health care and wellbeing provision – this would be in the form of both a paper format and online. 

@cpredevon’s reports on housing need in Devon are probably the most important reports on the county in the last decade – it is essential they have wider circulation and are made available online

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The Devon branch of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England has published Devon’s Housing Need Evidence Report and A Review of Government Housing Policy & Its Impacts on DevonCPRE says of the first:

‘Launched at a packed seminar in Tiverton on 12th October 2018, this independent report by Opinion Research Services (ORS) provides the real facts about Devon’s housing needs. The comprehensive data includes housing projections, targets, costs and tenure, numbers planned and population trends across the entire County. This brand new CPRE Devon commissioned research cuts a swathe through official figures and, for the first time, reveals the truth about Devon’s REAL housing needs. It should be a valuable resource to anyone interested in housing throughout the County.’

The second report, by Dr Philip Bratby, is an equally crucial, evidence-based challenge to government policy as it affects Devon. Together, these reports show that centrally imposed targets grossly overstate need and are driving excessive and inappropriate development. We need to change course.

Hard copies are available here, for £36 and £10 respectively, or free if you join CPRE before 31st October (£36 per year). I understand that CPRE needs to recoup its costs, but I think (1) that copies should be supplied to all County and district councillors and parish councils, and (2) that they need to be made available online for the public to read.