Health Scrutiny Committee

The ‘Health Scrutiny Committee’ which didn’t scrutinise

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Fallout is growing from yesterday’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee at Devon County Council, which decided yesterday by 7 votes to 6, with 2 abstentions and 2 members absent, not to refer the closure of 71 beds in Seaton, Honiton, Okehampton and Whipton (Exeter) community hospitals to the Secretary of State. The vote means that the beds will permanently close in September and October.
‘A stitch-up’
This was the phrase most commonly heard among those who witnessed this meeting, including many  protestors (right).
Cllr Claire Wright (Independent, below) had prepared a detailed motion to refer the closures and had submitted it in writing to the Chair, Cllr Sara Randall Johnson (Conservative), before the meeting. However when debate began, Randall Johnson chose not to call her to speak but instead called fellow Conservative Cllr Rufus Gilbert who immediately proposed a motion NOT to refer, which was quickly seconded by Cllr Sylvia Russell.
claireThis blatant manoeuvre by the Chair meant that the committee never considered point by point, as Claire’s motion would have required it to, the 14 questions on which it had asked the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to satisfy it. The committee blocked a referral – without discussing most of the careful objections which local councillors, EDDC and residents have raised.
We are considering a formal complaint about the way the meeting was handled.

What this means 

This meeting was the last constitutional means to overturn the CCG’s unjust treatment of Honiton and Okehampton, whose hospitals were excluded from the consultation options, and Seaton, whose beds have been closed using misleading data, leaving the whole Axe Valley without community beds. The Scrutiny Committee should have challenged these failures of the CCG but the Tories have chosen to condone them.
Now we must worry about what happens to hospital buildings without beds. Seaton hospital was paid for by the local community but the Government has handed it (like all the community hospitals) over to NHS Property Services and is forcing the CCG to pay them a so-called “market rent” for space. This was one of the reasons why the CCG wanted to remove so many beds and it will also make them reluctant to develop out-patient services in the hospital.
The danger is that the CCG, in its rush to save money, will simply centralise hospital services in Exeter. This is incredibly bad for communities like ours which are such a distance from the RD&E. Yesterday’s bad decision will only lead to new issues which the whole of the Axe Valley will have to face shortly.’
Roll of shame
  • The 7 councillors who voted NOT to refer the decision were all Conservatives: Sara Randall Johnson (Broadclyst), Richard Scott (Exmouth), Rufus Gilbert, Sylvia Russell, Paul Crabb and Ron Peart. John Berry and Jeremy Yabsley (both also Conservative) abstained.
In favour of referring the decision
  • The 6 councillors who voted against this motion, i.e. to refer the decision, were Claire Wright (Otter Valley, Independent), Brian Greenslade and Nick Way (Liberal Democrat), Hilary Ackland and Carol Whitton (Labour) and Phil Twiss (Honiton, Conservative).
Six public speakers, Cllr Roger Giles (Chair of East Devon’s Scrutiny Committee), Paul Arnott (Colyton), Cllr Jan Goffey (Mayor of Okehampton), Cllr Mike Allen, Bob Sturtivant and Stephen Craddock (Honiton), spoke eloquently against the closures for two and a half minutes each. County Councillor Ian Hall (Axminster) and I also addressed the committee for five minutes each.

Bus filling up for County Hall next Tuesday

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More people are coming on the bus to County Hall, Exeter, for next Tuesday, 25th, crucial Health Scrutiny Committee meeting, but there are still places left and we need to show councillors that the public are there and concerned about the issue. Please join us! (Email cllrmartinshaw@gmail.com if you’d like to reserve a seat on the bus – will cost £9-£10 return, depending on numbers.)

This meeting will finally decide whether to refer the hospital bed closures in Seaton and Honiton to the Secretary of State for Health. I will be speaking along with others from our area. We will be gathering to protest outside County Hall at 1 pm before the meeting at 2.15, which we will be observing.