“Councillors have delayed a decision to refer “Orwellian” plans to close hospital beds across Devon to the Health Secretary after a bad-tempered meeting at County Hall.
Placard-waving protesters gathered outside Devon County Council’s Exeter headquarters today to demand that controversial NHS plans be sent to Jeremy Hunt.
Critics of the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) scheme to close community hospital beds in Exeter, Seaton, Honiton and Okehampton, packed into a meeting of the health scrutiny committee on Monday.
A string of opponents were invited to speak and criticised the CCG for failing to demonstrate how adequate care would be provided in the community.
Independent East Devon Alliance County Councillor for Seaton and Colyton Martin Shaw said the CCG has never made the case for the “unmanageable” and “Orwellian” plan.
Fellow independent councillor for Ottery St Mary Claire Wright told the committee that a raft of assurances had failed to materialise from the CCG despite repeated requests.
Devon County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee had previously objected to the decision by NEW Devon CCG to reduce the number of community hospital beds in Eastern Devon from 143 to 72 and regardless of cost no bed closures be made until it is clear there was sufficient community care provision.”
They said: “If adequate assurances are not given to the above and the issues set out below, the CCG’s decision be referred to the Secretary of State for Health on the grounds that it was not in the in the interests of the health service in the area and the consultation was flawed and there is no clear explanation of what care at home will look like or work and this model has frequently been mixed up with Hospital at Home which is entirely different.
Representatives from the CCG, who were questioned by the committee, asked councillors to work with them locally in a “constructive way” rather than involving Mr Hunt.
A spokeswoman said 200 staff were under consultation as the new plan to provide home care took shape.
However, they failed to satisfy members of the newly-formed committee on 14 separate grounds drawn up by the previous committee prior to the May election.
Ms Wright proposed a motion to refer the matter to the Secretary of State for Health, which was seconded by Liberal Democrat former county council leader Brian Greenslade.
Conservatives on the committee questioned the usefulness of such a referral, a complicated procedure which requires that a fully-financed alternative plan be submitted.
A suggestion by committee chairman Sarah Randall Johnson that a decision on the referral be postponed until September was met with jeering from the public gallery.
Protesters shouted down the move, claiming time is pressing as bed closures have already begun, prompting the chairman to threaten to clear the meeting.
After two hours of debate, an amendment which postponed the decision unto an emergency meeting no later than the end of July was unanimously agreed.
Speaking after the meeting, campaigner Gillian Pritchett, who chairs the group Save Our Hospital Services in Honiton, said she was “totally unhappy” with the decision.
“Beds are being closed, the system is already in place,” she told Devon Live.
“The whole thing is a waste of time as (the CCG) will continue to close beds.”
Ms Wright said the meeting had been “incredibly frustrating”
“There was incontrovertible evidence to refer this to the Secretary of State,” she added.
“Those 14 grounds the committee came up with still stood.”