Seaton: “Hospital Beds Fight Shifts Back to County Council”

Press statement by County Councillor Martin Shaw (Seaton & Colyton)

The battle to keep in-patient beds in Seaton Hospital should now return to Devon County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee, according to Seaton and Colyton’s new County Councillor, Martin Shaw.

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.

Councillor Shaw says: ‘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.’

Councillor Shaw made his announcement after an urgent appeal for £20,000 for the first stage of a judicial review of the decision, the preparation of a ‘letter of complaint’, failed to raise enough money to proceed. He said:

‘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 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 will be writing to donors.’

‘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.’ “