Devon community hospitals

Okehampton Times picks up my campaign for the hospitals at the County Council

Posted on

Okehampton, like Seaton and Honiton, lost its beds last year. Read their report.

Local Conservative councillors were scared to have their individual votes on community hospital closures recorded at yesterday’s County Council meeting

Posted on Updated on

The big question about why the Tories were so determined to add ‘where appropriate‘ to my amendment that the County Council should work to save ALL Devon’s community hospitals is: Which hospital do they NOT think it is appropriate to keep as a community health and wellbeing centre?

I mentioned in my speech that East Devon councillors like Phil Twiss (Honiton) and Ian Hall (Axminster) had made it clear that their hospitals should be kept. And not one councillor popped up to make it clear that, yes, their hospital was the exception.

Tory leader John Hart told me that Teignmouth was a case, because the CCG was funding a new health centre there. But Teignmouth people are up in arms about the closure of their hospital and Teignmouth councillor Sylvia Russell was certainly not volunteering to support its closure.

Yet as far as I know all these councillors, and East Devon Conservatives like Stuart Hughes (Sidmouth), Richard Scott and Jeff Trail (Exmouth), Sara Randall Johnson and Ray Bloxham (Exmouth), voted to add the ‘where appropriate’ get-out (which presumably they think may be used for someone else’s hospital).

I say ‘as far as I know’ because the Tories also voted not to have their votes recorded on my amendmentAs far as I know, all those mentioned also voted for this suppression of information, too! If I have inadvertently maligned anyone, in the absence of this information being recorded, please let me know.

The only Conservative who did not support the get-out was, as I said in my last post, Dartmouth councillor Jonathan Hawkins, who spoke movingly about the plight of his community since their hospital was closed.

Claire Wright and I win a commitment from the County Council to work to save ALL Devon’s community hospitals, although the Conservatives can’t stop themselves adding get-out clauses

Posted on Updated on


In a hour-long debate in yesterday’s meeting, the Council adopted proposals which Cllr Claire Wright and I, the two Independent members from East Devon, put forward, in place of the original recommendation by the Cabinet.

IMG_0272The ruling Conservative group adopted (with a small addition) the wording of my amendment, which Claire seconded, which proposed to influence NHS decisions in the direction of retaining all community hospitals to be used as health and wellbeing centres for their areas, in place of the original Cabinet recommendation to merely seek ‘decision making appropriate to individual circumstances, including population need and the quality of building.’ 

This is an important change in direction by the Council, which is now committed for the first time to work to retain ALL hospitals, as Claire (who proposed the original motion) had requested. The Conservative leader, Cllr John Hart, insisted on adding the words ‘where appropriate’ to my proposal, which we opposed because it provides the NHS with additional leeway to close hospitals. Cllr Hart’s addendum was too much for one Conservative Councillor, Jonathan Hawkins (Dartmouth), who voted with the opposition for my amendment without this addition, in the light of his community’s experience of the closure of Dartmouth Hospital. 

The Devon Clinical Commissioning Groups could end this controversy with a clear policy statement that all remaining hospitals will stay open and will be supported as health and wellbeing centres for our communities. Until this happens, Claire and I, with the support of tens of thousands of people around Devon who are fighting for their local hospitals, will continue our campaign. On yesterday’s evidence, we are winning.

WATCH the debate online. 

Health Secretary tells Conservative conference ‘the era of blindly, invariably closing community hospitals is over’ – we shall see if Devon Tories have got the message at this afternoon’s County Council meeting

Posted on

UnknownIn potentially game-changing comments for our hospitals in Seaton, Honiton, Axminster and Ottery St Mary, new Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said:

‘We’ve got to reform the system so we spend more time on prevention not cure, with more integration between health and social care, and more treatment closer to home.

‘What I mean by this is that the era of moving all activity into fewer, larger hospitals and blindly, invariably closing community hospitals is over. … I want more services closer to the communities they serve.’

Claire Wright has a motion on the hospitals at this afternoon’s County Council, which I am seconding and the Conservative Cabinet originally proposed to water down. We shall see if they have got the very welcome new message from their health secretary. It is certainly our job to make sure that they and the CCGs take note.

My plea for a new deal for health in Devon’s towns falls on deaf ears, as Devon’s Conservative Cabinet refuses to generally defend community hospitals

Posted on Updated on

claireThe indomitable Claire Wright made a new challenge to Devon County Council’s Cabinet yesterday to support keeping our Community Hospital buildings. I made a strong appeal which you can watch here for a new health deal for Devon’s towns, saying that if we really have ‘integration’ of health, wellbeing and adult care, DCC must take its share of responsibility.

As Claire writes (I had to leave before the discussion concluded) the Conservatives largely refused this – it amounts to the fact that we’re not integrated when it comes to the hard choices, which are being left to the CCGs.

Interestingly, the Chief Executive, Dr Phil Norrey, proposed the backstop position that funds from selling buildings should be retained and reinvested in Devon, rather than ‘hoovered up’ by the national NHS Property Company. Let’s be clear – they should be used for Devon’s towns, and especially in any towns which lose their hospitals, and not hoovered up either into funding the acute hospitals.

Devon STP: there is ‘no rush’ to make decisions on community hospital buildings. What’s more, it hasn’t agreed what a ‘health hub’ is or how many there should be

Posted on

Speaking for the Devon NHS Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP), Dr Sonja Manton told a meeting of county councillors this morning that there was ‘no rush’ to decide the future of community hospital buildings.

Contrary to Dr Simon Kerr’s suggestion in April that decisions would be made in July, Dr Manton was clear that the end of July is a deadline for the Devon Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to bid for capital funding from NHS England, but not for decisions about the local estate. If these two were previously linked, they are not any more.

She also confirmed what she said to me some months ago, that no decisions will be made about buildings until after the conclusion of the ‘community conversations’ such as Seaton Area Health Matters and Honiton Health Matters, launched earlier this year, and that discussions are still going on about the distribution of local services.

Dr Manton, who was launching the STP’s two-year report, also stated that there was no agreement yet on what a ‘health hub‘ is, or how many of them there should be.

There is no room at all for complacency, however, since the report states:

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 also appeared from the meeting that midwife-led maternity services are unlikely to be restored in Honiton or Okehampton any time soon. References were made to staffing difficulties and also safety issues in case of difficulties during birth.

Shock revelation at Health Scrutiny suggests the ‘new model of care’ is more about switching intermediate care from community hospitals to ‘block bookings’ in private nursing homes – saving costs and freeing up assets. How long will it last?

Posted on

There was a staggering revelation yesterday at Health Scrutiny from Liz Davenport, Chief Executive of South Devon and Torbay NHS Foundation Trust, that they had made ‘block bookings of intermediate care beds in nursing homes’ when they introduced the ‘new model of care’. South Devon has closed community hospitals in Ashburton, Bovey Tracey, Paignton and Dartmouth and is currently consulting on the closure of Teignmouth – where I spoke at a rally last Saturday.

The ‘new model of care’ is supposed to mean more patients treated in their own homes, and there does seem to have been an increase in the numbers of patients sent straight home from the main hospitals.

But the idea that all patients can be transferred directly from acute hospitals to home is untrue. There is still a need for the stepping-down ‘intermediate care’ traditionally provided by community hospitals – the only difference is that now it’s being provided in private nursing homes instead.

It’s likely to be cheaper to use private homes, because staff don’t get NHS conditions, and crucially it frees up space in the hospitals so that the CCGs can declare buildings ‘surplus to requirements’ and claim the Government’s ‘double your money’ bonus for asset sales. It seems NEW Devon CCG has also made extensive use of nursing home beds, but we don’t yet know if there were ‘block bookings’.

However the private nursing home solution may not last – DCC’s chief social care officer, Tim Golby, reported that nursing homes are finding it difficult to keep the registered nurses they need to operate, and some are considering reversion to residential care homes.

This may be where the South Devon trust’s long term solution comes in – it had already been reported that it is looking to partner with a private company in a potential £100m deal which will include creating community hubs that contain inpatient beds.

The new model of care is also about privatisation.