Seaton Hospital

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).

CAN YOU COME TO COUNTY HALL ON MONDAY to support the campaign for Seaton & Honiton hospital beds?

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We will be asking the committee to use its power to refer the decision to close our hospital beds to the Secretary of State for Health. This is our best opportunity to halt the closure programme.

We will be meeting on the main steps of County Hall from 1 pm to protest against the closure decisions, together with people from Okehampton (whose beds are also threatened) and other parts of Devon. Tell your friends and bring placards!

The meeting starts at 2.15 and we want as many people as possible to be in the public gallery to support our 6 speakers in the public participation session at the beginning of the meeting. As a Councillor (but not a member of the committee), I will be speaking later when we reach the item.

Howard and Anne West are organising a bus to take people from Colyford and Seaton to the meeting. Please email annewest@lineone.net AS SOON AS POSSIBLE if you would like a seat on the bus (£9).

20170614_19363760 people packed Marshlands, Seaton, last night for the planning meeting which called this demonstration. Dr Mark Welland, Seaton GP and Chair of the Hospital League of Friends, addressed the meeting which was chaired by Jack Rowland, Mayor of Seaton.

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

 

Hospital beds fight shifts back to County Council

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The battle to keep in-patient beds in Seaton Hospital should now return to Devon County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee, I argue in a statement issued to the press today.

The Council has the power to refer the decision of the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to the Secretary of State for Health. In March, the Scrutiny Committee asked the CCG to answer 14 questions before the Council exercised this power. The CCG responded, but the answers will remain confidential until the June meeting of the new committee, whose members will be nominated at the Council’s Annual Meeting on May 25th.

I have now seen the CCG’s answers but I am not allowed to reveal them publicly, which I think is deplorable. However I can state that, particularly in relation to the decision about Seaton, the CCG’s case remains flimsy and threadbare. I shall be raising this matter as soon as the new committee meets and I urge other interested parties in the Axe Valley to join me in making representations. I have had a preliminary talk with Axminster’s new County Councillor, Ian Hall, and I hope we can make a cross-party case for the whole local community on this issue. I am also talking to Honiton campaigners.

Judicial review: fundraising insufficient

I am proposing this way forward after the urgent appeal for £20,000 for the first stage of a judicial review of the decision, the preparation of a ‘letter of complaint’ – which I made last Saturday following my election on Friday – failed to raise enough money to proceed. 

I was moved by the response in which about 70 donations have been made. Sadly, however, the total raised, while over £5,000, was still not sufficient to pay the solicitors to prepare the letter, for which they would have charged £16,800. It might have been possible to raise the balance after the letter was sent, but within three weeks the action itself, requiring a fighting fund of many tens of thousands, would also have had to be launched. In the light of this response, there seemed no prospect of raising the further money in the time available.

I therefore decided not to proceed with the action. I felt it was unfair to the donors to spend their money on something which could not be followed through. I have incurred some legal costs but most of the money will be returned, and I have written to those donors whose names I had (others will be contacted in due course after I have sorted things out with the League of Friends).

Case strengthened 

The appeal has had a positive effect, however, in that new evidence came to light which strengthens the case that the CCG acted wrongly in the way they made the Seaton decision. This will be used in representations to the County Council. I also urge voters to make the Seaton and Honiton hospital beds a priority with all candidates in the General Election, so that whoever is our MP makes the new Health Secretary aware of local anger about this issue.

CCG closing Seaton Hospital beds by stealth

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The NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) promised that Seaton Hospital beds would not be closed until its new ‘care at home’ scheme is in place. Yet at the Seaton Health Forum last week it was reported that occupancy, which is normally over 90 per cent, had fallen to two-thirds. And today a local resident has reported on Facebook:
“I had to take my dad to the hospital in Exeter for a procedure. This has all gone well and they were going to move him to a different ward to recuperate perhaps for ten days. I said it would be good if he could be moved to Seaton Hospital. I was told that staff had been told not to send people to Seaton. The look of disgust on the doctors face suggested that there was more to that sentence along the lines of ‘because they want to keep it empty so that it looks like it is not being used’.”
The resident concludes, ‘Do you ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?’ and I agree. It appears that CCG is now closing Seaton Hospital’s beds by stealth. This follows Devon County Council’s refusal to release the CCG’s response to Devon’s Health Scrutiny Committee’s 14 questions, until after the County election next week. It now appears that not only have the CCG used the elections to avoid accountability, but they have reneged on their promises about implementation. 
I demand that the CCG ensure that Seaton Hospital is used normally until the new system is fully operational, and that any implementation process is transparent and subject to public scrutiny. If elected next Thursday, my first job will be to hold the CCG to account.
 
This news only increases the urgency of Seaton Town Council’s decision about judicial review, which it is due to make on Tuesday 2nd May.

Seaton Hospital League of Friends annual meeting

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Seaton Hospital League of FriendsI went to the Seaton Hospital League of Friends’ Annual General Meeting last night. About 50 people crowded into the Harding room. It was in many ways an inspirational occasion, as you could almost feel the excellent work, by hospital staff and League volunteers alike, which was reported to the meeting. It was all the more poignant therefore to realise that the in-patient beds, regularly full and working well as part of the local health system, were slated for removal by the CCG.

The League is fully behind judicial review, if Seaton Town Council decides on Tuesday (2nd), following the legal advice which we are about to receive, to pursue this. The League has established a holding account for those wishing to donate towards the legal costs, details of which will be made available in the next couple of days.

Note. The Town Council discussion of judicial review will be in closed session, for legal reasons.