“MP Neil Parish came under pressure to oppose the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement unless more money is allocated to the NHS to prevent community hospital bed closures when he attended a public meeting in Seaton on Friday.
The MP would not commit to a “Yes” or “No” answer, and said he is “hopeful” of not having to make that choice.
Having spoken passionately against a proposed reduction of beds in East Devon’s community hospitals at a packed Gateway last Friday, the MP was challenged by Colyton resident and former East Devon Alliance chairman Paul Arnott.
Mr Arnott said: “If in the Autumn Statement later this month more money is not provided [for the NHS], will you vote against that Autumn Statement?”
Mr Parish said he liked the question’s sting in the tail and went on to say: “The answer is that I will very much put pressure on both the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Health to provide more money for Devon, and I will endeavour to get some more money.”
He stressed he had voted against the government before, and added: “I’m hopeful that we can get them to give some ground, so therefore it won’t put me in the position to have to vote against the government – but if they don’t budge at all, then you might find me in the other lobby.”
The public meeting had been called by Seaton doctors, town councillors and hospital league of friends members concerned about the possible closure of beds at Seaton Hospital.
The meeting was chaired by town councillor Martin Pigott and the panel included, among others, NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Chief Officer Rebecca Harriott and Seaton Hospital League of Friends chairman Dr Mark Welland.
Councillor Pigott explained that the purpose of the meeting was “to raise questions and perhaps get answers”.
Currently there are a total of 143 beds spread across eight community hospitals in the area covered by NEW Devon CCG.
But health bosses announced drastic proposals that would see only 72 beds concentrated to three sites, with a shortlist of four options, and launched an ongoing public consultation.
It is this announcement that sparked campaigns around Devon to save the beds.
Mr Parish, for example, was heading to a similar meeting in Honiton straight after the Seaton one.
The CCG needs to save money and also says that many patients lose their independence, and could deteriorate physically if in a hospital bed, so would benefit from being cared for in their homes instead.
Campaigners and the CCG do agree that community hospital beds are needed, but are poles apart when it comes to numbers.
Ms Harriott told the meeting: “We rely on beds far more than other places in the country do.”
The concept of caring for patients at home as opposed to in hospital is being questioned by campaigners, but the CCG says it has evidence from around the UK that it works.
The CCG will have its own consultation sessions in Seaton on Thursday, November 24th. These will also be held in The Gateway, from 2pm-4.30pm and from 5.30pm to 8pm.
The four options presented by the CCG are:
Option A Beds at Tiverton (32), Seaton (24) and Exmouth (16)
Option B Beds at Tiverton (32), Sidmouth (24) and Exmouth (16)
Option C Beds at Tiverton (32), Seaton (24) and Exeter (16)
Option D Beds at Tiverton (32), Sidmouth (24) and Exeter (16).
A petition organised by the meeting organisers, supporting Option A, had amassed 800 signatures by last Friday.”