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