Devon Health Scrutiny

East Devon Tories were central to ditching Seaton and Honiton hospital beds

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Councillor-Sara-Randall-JohnsonWhy did Devon’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee block the proposal to refer the closure of our beds to the Secretary of State? The idea that the Chair, Councillor Sara Randall Johnson (left), was settling an old score with Claire Wright makes a nice story but overlooks the concerted Conservative position. The collusion between Randall Johnson and Rufus Gilbert – who rushed to propose a ‘no referral’ motion before Claire could move her motion to refer -was obvious to all, as was her keenness to persuade her colleagues not to have a recorded vote.

Equally striking, however, is that only one out of 12 Tories on the Committee – Honiton’s Phil Twiss – voted against Gilbert’s motion. The other 7 Tories who voted were all for allowing the beds to be closed; 2 who had reservations abstained; 2 more were (diplomatically?) absent. Whipping is not allowed on Scrutiny committees, but this gives a strong impression of a Tory consensus. Members who were uncertain of their support were unwilling to defy it beyond abstention. Twiss was obviously a special case, as the one committee member whose hospital will lose its beds.

Clearly the Conservative Group on DCC gave their East Devon members the main role in dealing with the Eastern Locality hospital beds issue when in May (with its return to Scrutiny looming) they made Randall Johnson chair and nominated two Exmouth members, Jeff Trail and Richard Scott, as well as Twiss as members of the Health Scrutiny Committee. With East Devon Tory leader, Paul Diviani, representing Devon’s district councils, 5 of its Tory members were from East Devon and only 7 from the other five-sixths of the Tory group.

East Devon Tories on the committee certainly lived up to their role on Tuesday. All except Trail voted, making half of all Tory votes cast on the committee and 3 out of 7 on the pro-CCG side. In contrast, only 4 of the 7 Tories from elsewhere in the county cast a vote on this crucial issue: East Devon’s Tories may have convinced themselves, but not their colleagues.

Paul Diviani spills the beans

imagesWith Randall Johnson preoccupied with timekeeping (except when the CCG were speaking), Scott silent and Twiss asking questions, it was left to Diviani (right) to express the Tory rationale. He claimed to speak for Devon district councils as a whole, but has acknowledged that he had consulted none of the others. He was happy to defy his own Council, which has voted to keep hospital beds, and spoke for himself – and East Devon Conservatives.

Diviani’s caustic little speech deserves more attention than it has been given.

  • He started by saying that those who decide to live in the countryside expect diminished service, and must cut their cloth accordingly in current times – forgetting that many have lived here all their lives, or moved here long before the present Tory government arrived to savage the NHS.
  • ‘Costs will always rise without innovation’, Diviani continued, forgetting that the ‘costs’ of community hospitals are rising particularly because of the Tory innovation which gave them over to NHS Property Services and its ‘market rents’.
  • ‘Local decisions should be made locally’, he averred, overlooking the fact that Sustainability and Transformation Plans, Success Regimes and NHS property sales are all national initiatives forced on the local NHS – while NEW Devon CCG is so unrepresentative even of local doctors that only full-time managers (Sonja Manton and Rob Sainsbury) are allowed to present its case in public while its ‘practitioner’ figurehead, Dr Tim Burke, hides in a corner.

When, however, Diviani warned that ‘attempting to browbeat the Secretary of State to overturn his own policies is counter-intuitive’, he expressed the truth of the situation. The closure of community hospitals results from the determined policies of the Conservative Government. (Referral would have served the purposes of delaying permanent closures, embarrassing the Government and forcing its Independent Reconfiguration Panel to give an assessment of the issue.)

East Devon Tories are the Government’s faithful servants. ‘Don’t trust East Devon Tories’ over the hospitals, I warned during the County elections. How right have I been proved.

Health Scrutiny Committee will decide on hospital beds on Tuesday 25th July

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IMG_0276Campaigners in the Seaton and Honiton areas are preparing for a crucial meeting of Devon County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday 25th July. Following a meeting in June when they postponed a decision, this committee will now decide whether to use its power to refer the decision of the NEW Devon Clinical Commission Group (CCG) to close all in-patient beds in Seaton, Honiton and Okehampton hospitals to the Secretary of State for Health.
In March, the Committee sent the CCG 14 questions, from a resolution proposed by County Councillor Claire Wright, about the proposals to replace 72 of East Devon’s 144 community hospital beds by care at home. Cllr Wright and other committee members are expected to examine the 14 points in detail to see which of them the CCG has answered satisfactorily.
The questions included the justification for the surprise last-minute switch of beds from Seaton to Sidmouth, which left no beds at all in the Axe Valley, since Axminster has already lost its beds.
Among those who will be speaking against the plans are Seaton Mayor, Jack Rowland; the Chair of EDDC’s Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Roger Giles; Steve Craddock and Bob Sturtivant from Honiton; and myself.
This is a crucial decision not only for the beds but also for the future of the hospitals. The CCG’s next step is its local estate strategy, which may involve partial or even complete closures of hospitals. Seaton is more remote from acute hospitals than any other East Devon town and it is vital that we retain our hospital, which was built by the local community in Seaton, Beer, Colyton and the surrounding area.
As in June, protestors will gather outside County Hall from 1 pm, and will then observe the meeting which starts at 2.15. A bus is being organised to take people from Seaton to County Hall: anyone who would like to book a seat should contact me cllrmartinshaw@gmail.com or 07972 760254.
The many emails sent to committee members in June had a real impact. Here are their addresses if you’d like to write again:

EDDC backs call to refer hospital beds decision – Seaton switch rises up the agenda

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On Thursday, East Devon District Council’s Scrutiny Committee expressed ‘great concern‘ that under the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s plans ‘there will be no community hospital beds east of Sidmouth, leaving residents in a whole swathe of eastern Devon remote from the nearest hospital facilities.’
The Committee also agreed to write to Devon County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee, urging it to refer the matter to the Secretary of State for Health ‘as a matter of urgency‘ as it was ‘concerned that lack of an early submission will result in NEW Devon CCG going ahead with its proposals‘. This followed a claim from Councillor Mike Allen that staff were already leaving and patients being turned away from Honiton Hospital, a point I also made about Seaton Hospital.
Much of the discussion at the EDDC meeting reacted to the discussion at Devon’s Health Scrutiny Committee last Monday. Devon councillors had followed the recommendation of their Chairman, Councillor Sara Randall Johnson, to postpone until July a decision on Councillor Claire Wright’s proposal to refer the CCG’s decisions to the Secretary of State for Health.
How many staff? – ‘What is required’ says CCG!
The Committee’s resolution was the outcome of two hours’ pressure from Committee members, other councillors and the public on the Chair of the CCG’s Eastern Locality, Dr John Kerr. The  resolution was proposed by Chairman, Councillor Roger Giles of Ottery St. Mary, who had interrogated CCG representatives on their proposals. He repeatedly asked ‘how many additional staff will be required’ for the CCG’s new model of care, only to be told ‘what is required’. Other members expressed doubt that enough new staff could be recruited.
Moulding backs Seaton
Cllr Giles’ proposals followed speeches by EDDC ward councillor Andrew Moulding of Axminster and myself for keeping hospital beds in Seaton. Councillor Moulding pointed out that not only Axminster, but also Axmouth, Uplyme and Rousdon, had been omitted from the CCG’s calculations of the population served by Seaton Hospital.
Keeping beds in Seaton has had tremendous backing this week, including not only from Councillor Moulding but also Councillor Hall from Axminster, and Mike McAlpine, Chair of the Committee for the Axe Valley Health Hub. Seaton’s Deputy Mayor, Martin Pigott, made an excellent case at County Hall.
CCG fails to answer 
It was very obvious that CCG representatives, Dr Sonja Manton at the Devon meeting and Dr Kerr at EDDC, refused to answer direct questions about the flawed case for axing Seaton’s beds. I am optimistic that when this comes back to Devon, councillors on the Health Scrutiny Committee will pick up the Seaton issue and we will finally get justice for our communities.
EDDC has put saving the beds back on the agenda and pointed the way for Devon County Council’s Scrutiny Committee to follow. I am very pleased at the strong cross-party case made for East Devon hospitals – especially the mounting support for looking again at the CCG’s completely indefensible abandonment of Seaton.

A frustrating day, but further chances on Thursday and in July to challenge the CCG

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The Health Scrutiny Committee meeting at County Hall yesterday was incredibly frustrating for the 60 or so supporters of Seaton, Honiton and Okehampton hospitals who attended. It resolved nothing and there will be another meeting before the end of July to consider the matter again (I will tell you when the date is fixed).
You can watch the meeting at https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/288543. The speakers in the public participation at the beginning were good, much better than most of the committee discussion. My speech is at 0.34.50. You may have seen that we also made a good splash on regional TV.
There WAS progress, I think, in pinning down the irrationality of the decision to close Seaton’s beds. Speeches supporting Seaton were made by Martin Pigott, Vice-Chair of Seaton Town Council, Mike McAlpine, Chair of the committee for the Axe Valley Health Hub, Cllr Ian Hall of Axminster, as well as myself. The issue was picked up on the committee, especially by Cllr Hilary Ackland, who twice challenged Dr Sonja Manton of the CCG on the issue. Manton declined to answer Ackland’s specific question.
I feel we can build on this at the re-run meeting. We also have an opportunity to challenge the CCG (who are answering questions from councillors) at EDDC’s Scrutiny Committee on Thursday at 6pm. EDDC doesn’t have any power but I think we should keep up the pressure on the CCG. I have put down to speak. If anyone else can do it – email Debbie Meakin dmeakin@eastdevon.gov.uk.
Would anyone who can come to this meeting – whether to speak or not – let me know (cllrmartinshaw@gmail.com)?
Thanks to all who came and who sent emails (they really had an effect).

My case for the Health Scrutiny Committee to refer the hospital beds decision to the Secretary of State

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On Monday 19 June (2.15), Devon County Council Health Scrutiny Committee will consider the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s responses to 14 questions asked of the CCG by the Committee. If the Committee is not satisfied, it has the legal power to refer the CCG’s decisions to the Secretary of State for Health. (http://democracy.devon.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=429&MId=2581&Ver=4)
I have sent this 6-page letter to the Chair of the Committee, Cllr Sara Randall Johnson, showing why the the CCG’s replies are inadequate, their decisions still demonstrably flawed, and the Committee should use its power to refer them.
I shall be speaking at the Committee, along with other representatives of the Seaton, Honiton and Axminster communities which are worst affected by these decisions. My main points are:
  1. Plans to halve the numbers of community beds do not take into account that the numbers of older people in Devon will more than double in the next two decades.
  2. East Devon needs more beds than other areas because it has the oldest population in Devon and this will continue to grow.
  3. Community beds are crucial to older patients without transport and when they are distant many relatives will have huge difficulty visiting their loved ones.
  4. Savings from the closures will be small. Both financial logic and CCG planning suggest that the real agenda is to close a number of hospitals.
  5. The CCG’s consultation was flawed because it gave no option to keep Honiton’s beds, and the CCG ignored the stronger support for Seaton from people who responded.
  6. The CCG’s reasons for choosing Sidmouth over Seaton are based on misleading use of evidence about population and age distributions (see table below, explained in letter).
  7. The concentration of beds in Tiverton, Sidmouth and Exmouth will leave the eastern margins of East Devon entirely without. The CCG’s claim that this is ‘a more even geographic spread’ is entirely false.
  8. The CCG ignored the fact that Seaton also serves the Axminster area, and has reneged on the commitment it gave when it recently closed Axminster Hospital’s beds, that beds would continue to be available in Seaton.
  9. Communities in the Seaton, Axminster and Honiton are angry about the decision and expect the Health Scrutiny Committee to refer it to the Secretary of State.
We are holding a public meeting in Seaton on Wednesday 14th (7 pm, Marshlands Centre, Harbour Road) to plan the community presence at the Health Scrutiny Committee.
Figure-3.2-Population-in-Selected-Age-Bands-by-town-2014-768x501