Seaton Hospital

It seems likely CCG strategy director DID say that there would be no closures of East Devon community hospitals – but in a private meeting for councillors. Over to you again, @NEWDevonCCG: we need a definitive, detailed public statement

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Conservative councillor Phil Twiss has commented on East Devon Watch about my post yesterday. He says:

Happy to clarify that a discussion about provision of services in our local hospitals was raised at the Health Scrutiny Masterclass to improve knowledge (other Scrutiny committees hold similar cross party meetings as required), held on the 4th of October, which is open to all members of DCC. This particular one was attended by a broad cross party selection of Councillors, but not Martin Shaw or colleague Claire Wright who chose not take up the opportunity to hear from a variety of healthcare professionals at the Masterclass. My apologies to your reader for any confusion with the committee held on the same day.

I am delighted that local charity FORCE are now providing some chemotherapy treatments in Honiton, making it easier than travelling in to Exeter, with hopefully other services coming down the track; there is a clear ambition for healthcare hubs here and in the Axe Valley, where there is cross party work taking place to this end.

My reply on the same site:

Since Phil Twiss has clarified where Sonja Manton was speaking, but doesn’t comment on what she said, we must assume that he stands by his statement in the open Council meeting that she had confirmed there would be no closures of community hospitals in East Devon. If so, this is obviously very welcome, but the devil could be in the detail, and it is not good enough for such vital public information to be leaked to councillors in informal meetings. We need a public statement from the CCG, assuring us of the future of Axminster, Honiton, Ottery St. Mary and Seaton hospitals (as well as Okehampton which is part of the wider Eastern Locality).

Twiss’s comment that Claire Wright and I “chose not to take the opportunity” to attend the masterclass barely deserves a reply. However I have been dealing with a very difficult family situation over the last two months and this was one meeting which I had to pass up. I am not, in any case, a member of the Health Scrutiny committee, but since I was elected I have attended almost all its meetings, chiefly to support Claire in fighting for the community hospitals.

If the CCG now accept that the hospitals must stay, this will be a great victory for the campaigns in all the towns over the last few years, and for Claire, the Independent councillors at EDDC, and myself, who have supported local communities while the Conservatives have constantly left the door open for the CCGs to close them “where appropriate”, in the words of their most recent motion at the County Council.’

EDDC fails to protect our community hospitals, offering specious justifications for failing to list Seaton Hospital as a ‘Community Asset’

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Jack Rowland photoOn Wednesday, Cllr Jack Rowland (right), Chair of Seaton Area Health Matters, questioned EDDC’s refusal to list Seaton Hospital as a Community Asset – which would have given Seaton Town Council, which made the request, additional grounds and time to object to any proposal for closure.

He was given the answer below. I think the reasons are specious. The guide to the Localism Act which is quoted does not claim to list all the types of buildings that can be covered, but merely gives examples. As the fact that two other Devon councils have listed hospitals shows, this is a question of interpretation. EDDC have chosen to interpret Community Assets narrowly, and then explain away the other councils’ decisions by the fact the hospitals concerned may be in relatively deprived areas, the reason North Devon gives for listing Ilfracombe – although this reason is not mentioned in the guide to the Localism Act, either!

Clearly community hospitals do, as the guide says, play a vital role in local life. … Local life would not be the same without them, and if they are closed or sold into private use, it can be a real loss to the community.” This is true regardless of how deprived the area is. Jack Rowland’s challenge has shown that once again, EDDC has defaulted to failing to protect our community hospitals.

EDDC’s ‘recorded reason’:

The main use of the property is the ‘care element’ which may be considered as furthering the social wellbeing or social interest of the community, however, this does not come within the scope of the Localism Act.

A plain English guide to the Localism Act, states:

“Every town, village or neighbourhood is home to buildings or amenities that play a vital role in local life. They might include community centres, libraries, swimming pools, village shops, markets or pubs. Local life would not be the same without them, and if they are closed or sold into private use, it can be a real loss to the community.”

In this case the nominated asset does not fall into the category of a Community Asset under s88 of the Localism Act and therefore should not be listed.

The Council believes that this interpretation of the law is correct as there is no evidence to suggest that community hospitals were in the mind of the legislator when the law was enacted. This is reinforced by the definition of ‘social interests’ in Section 88(6) of the Localism Act 2011 which states that it is, in particular, cultural, recreational or sporting interests. In addition there certainly appears to be no reference to community hospitals for example on any relevant websites. Had it been the intent of the legislator to include health care then one would have expected it to be listed in the relevant definition. It has also been confirmed that religious observance in a building does not fall within ‘social well-being’ and our view is that this is analogous to circumstances surrounding health care provision.

In the Case of North Devon Council they have helpfully published their reasoning for deciding that Ilfracombe hospital was an appropriate site to be registered under the community right to bid: https://www.northdevon.gov.uk/media/378607/decision-notice-tyrrel-hospital.pdf                                

In particular, considerable emphasis is put on the fact that Ilfracombe is an area of high deprivation and low car ownership in a rural locality. This justification has been used to justify a departure from the original legislative intention.

Teignbridge Council have not published any of their decisions but looking at the location of the relevant properties it would appear that the assets are similarly located in areas which experience the worst levels of deprivation in Devon: http://www.devonhealthandwellbeing.org.uk/jsna/overview/archive/socio-economic-deprivation/indices-of-deprivation-2015/

The same cannot be said to be the case in either Axminster, Honiton, Ottery St Mary or Seaton. In the circumstances therefore there is no justification for departing from the correct legal interpretation and any consequential risks’.

Who’s ‘weaponising’ community hospitals, @HugoSwire? Two years ago you were happy to sell out Seaton Hospital to save your parliamentary career

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Hugo SwireDear Hugo Swire,

In a recent Exmouth Journal article you said“Regrettably, Ottery Hospital has been weaponised by an anti-Tory coalition for nigh on ten years with them telling a naturally alarmed local community that it will be sold off or closed. I have spent 10 years trying to counter this scaremongering. …”

It’s hardly scaremongering when the hospital has lost its beds and this July’s Devon NHS Sustainability and Transformation Partnership report said, ‘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’s also rich for you to talk about ‘weaponising’ community hospitals. In Seaton we remember all too well when the Clinical Commissioning Group launched its consultation on the future of community hospital beds in 2016, with its preferred option being Option A which would keep the beds in Tiverton, Exmouth and Seaton. You said in Parliament that ‘option B, which sees the beds retained in Tiverton, and also in Sidmouth and Exmouth, is the option worthy of support. Sidmouth has an extremely high proportion of over-85s, with people increasingly living longer, and of people with dementia. Exmouth is the biggest town in Devon with more than 35,000 people.’

Four months later the CCG followed your recommendation, changed its preference, and closed Seaton’s beds. The reasons given for preferring Sidmouth to Seaton were specious – Seaton has an almost identical proportion of elderly.  In short, Hugo Swire, you sold Seaton down the river because it was no longer in your constituency (having been removed due to boundary changes in 2010) and you needed to save beds in Sidmouth as well as Exmouth to fend off the challenge from Claire Wright, who even so ran you close in the 2017 General Election.

Today Seaton Hospital, like Ottery, Honiton and Axminster, faces an uncertain future. If it closes, it will be a knock-on effect of the beds decision, and it will be partly on your head.

Martin Shaw, County Councillor for Seaton and Colyton 

Why has EDDC refused to list Seaton and other community hospitals as ‘assets of community value’, when other Devon districts have done so? Jack Rowland will ask at the EDDC on Wednesday

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jack rowlandJack’s question:
EDDC has recently decided not to list Seaton Community Hospital as an asset of community value citing that it does not meet the definition of “social wellbeing”. EDDC has now declined requests from 3 community hospitals in the district giving the same reason each time. Please explain why other district councils in Devon have agreed to list community hospitals as assets of community value e.g. Tyrell Community Hospital in Ilfracombe, Moretonhampstead Community Hospital, Bovey Tracey Community Hospital and Teignmouth Community Hospital.
 
Why is EDDC interpreting the definition differently to neighbouring district councils on this important issue where our community hospitals may be under threat of being fully closed and sold in the future by NHS Property Services?

ENT returns to Seaton Hospital, but not Dermatology, as RD&E’s meeting with Seaton Area Health Matters to discuss local services is postponed for a month

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Readers may recall that since April I have been querying the apparent withdrawal of ENT and Dermatology clinics from Seaton hospital. I have finally had an explanation. The ENT service at Seaton is provided is by Dr Rob Daniels, GP at Townsend House, who is directly commissioned by the CCG to provide GP with a Special Interest ENT and nurse-led ear suction.  Apparently Dr Daniels was on 6 months’ sabbatical, but has now returned and had a full clinic booked for the 15th August.

Dermatology, on the other hand, was provided using a GP special interest service (GPwSI) provided by Dr Joe Pitt, who has left the area, and it is not currently being replaced.  The RD&E says, ‘At the moment the majority of the dermatology activity for the east is taking place at Axminster where the dermatologists can provide minor ops. If the dermatologists feel a procedure needs a more complex intervention then patients are asked to have this undertaken at Heavitree.’ (Although in my knowledge, as I have told them, patients are sometimes referred directly to Heavitree.)

This is a shame since there was a substantial uptake for Dermatology in Seaton. We will have a chance to discuss its possible return when Seaton Area Health Matters, chaired by Jack Rowland, meets RD&E leaders to discuss the opportunities for local provision of services in general. This meeting, originally envisaged for this month, now looks like being in late October or early November.

Since the CCG will not announce decisions about the future of hospitals until after the conclusion of these discussions (which are also taking place in other towns), these will presumably be put back into 2019 – maybe even beyond the local elections in May?

‘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.