Honiton Hospital

‘A wake-up call for East Devon … the threat is even more serious than the loss of beds last year’ – my letter in The Paper for Honiton on the fallout from Dr Kerr’s statement that Seaton and Honiton hospitals are ‘at risk’

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Published in this week’s issue:
The Paper for Honiton (17 May) was right to highlight the statement of Dr Simon Kerr of NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) that Honiton and Seaton hospitals are ‘at risk’ of closure, which he has not denied making. This should be a wake-up call to everyone in East Devon that any of our community hospitals, including also Axminster, Ottery St Mary and Whipton, which have lost their beds could be closed after the CCG’s Local Estates Strategy is published around July. The CCG remains focused on cutting its deficit, mainly the result of the NHS being badly underfunded, and the Government has given it a ‘double your money’ incentive to sell off ‘surplus’ buildings.
This threat is even more serious than the loss of beds last year. In the face of it, I call on all East Devon county councillors and the leader of East Devon District Council to join me in pressing the CCG to continue funding a wide range of outpatient services in all our hospitals, keeping them as health and wellbeing hubs (in line with the policies supported by all parties in last year’s county elections), and turning the CCG’s idea of ‘place-based care’ into reality. We have an enviable system of community hospitals supported by local people over many decades. Let this remain the centre of our local health provision in every town – without exception.

CCG chair says Seaton and Honiton hospitals ‘at risk’ of closure in Local Estates Strategy

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It has been revealed that Dr Simon Kerr, Chair of NEW Devon CCG’s Eastern Locality, told a meeting with representatives of 38 Degrees on 5th April that Seaton and Honiton hospitals were ‘at risk’ in the CCG’s Local Estates Strategy due in July. His remarks were taken down by the 38 Degrees member who produced draft notes of the meeting, and have been confirmed by other participants, but have not yet been confirmed by the CCG.

Although the hospitals both lost their inpatient beds last summer, Seaton Hospital currently hosts over 50 outpatient services (and there are probably at least as many in Honiton). Both are vital community health resources, created with decades of financial and practical support from people all around the Seaton and Honiton areas.

As part of a move to promote ‘place-based care’, the CCG and RD&E are currently taking part in two ‘community health conversations’, Honiton’s Health Matters and Seaton and Area’s Health Matters, which local voluntary groups, town and parish councils etc. are involved in. However if place-based care means anything, it should mean that communities should keep their local hospitals as health hubs, with more rather than fewer services.

Together with Cllr Jack Rowland, who stood down as mayor of Seaton last week but remains the town council’s representative on the Health Matters organising group, have written to Dr Tim Burke, Chair of the CCG, to ask for an unequivocal assurance that the hospitals will remain open.

I am hoping to shortly announce a meeting of the hospital campaign group.

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.

More closures at community hospitals

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The Acute Services Review, part of the Devon NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP), proposes the closure of maternity units at Newton Abbot, Tiverton, Okehampton and Honiton – the last two hospitals of course designated, with Seaton, to lose inpatient beds too. Read a summary and Claire Wright’s comment.

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

 

Otter Nurseries pledges £10,000 for Judicial Review of CCG decision to close Honiton beds

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In an extraordinarily generous gesture, Otter Nurseries have told Save Hospital Services – Honiton that they will give £10,000 towards the costs of a Judicial Review of the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s decision to close the in-patient beds in Honiton Hospital. What an example for local campaigners in Seaton! If a lot of local businesses and individuals give a fraction of this amount, we can raise the funds to overturn the Seaton closures, too.