Blogpost by recently-elected Independent East Devon Alliance DCC Councillor Martin Shaw”
“East Devon District Council’s Scrutiny Committee called tonight for the existing level of community hospital beds in East Devon to be maintained, with no closures. It expressed ‘great concern’ that under the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s plans ‘there will be no community hospital beds east of Sidmouth, leaving residents in a whole swathe of eastern Devon remote from the nearest hospital facilities.’
The Committee also agreed to write to Devon County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee, urging it to refer the matter to the Secretary of State for Health ‘as a matter of urgency’ as it was ‘concerned that lack of an early submission will result in NEW Devon CCG going ahead with its proposals’. This followed a claim from Councillor Mike Allen that staff were already leaving and patients being turned away from Honiton Hospital. The point was echoed in comments by County Councillor Martin Shaw about Seaton Hospital.
The Committee’s resolution was the outcome of two hours’ pressure from Committee members, other councillors and the public on the Chair of the CCG’s Eastern Locality, Dr John Kerr. The resolution was proposed by Chairman, Councillor Roger Giles of Ottery St. Mary, who had interrogated CCG representatives on their proposals. He repeatedly asked ‘how many additional staff will be required’ for the CCG’s new model of care, only to be told ‘what is required’. Other members expressed doubt that enough new staff could be recruited.
Cllr Giles’ proposals followed speeches by Councillor Shaw and EDDC ward councillor Andrew Moulding of Axminster for keeping hospital beds in Seaton. Councillor Moulding pointed out that not only Axminster, but also Axmouth, Uplyme and Rousdon, had been omitted from the CCG’s calculations of the population served by Seaton Hospital.
Much of the discussion at the EDDC meeting reacted to the discussion at Devon’s Health Scrutiny Committee last Monday. Devon councillors had followed the recommendation of their Chairman, Councillor Sara Randall Johnson, to postpone until July a decision on Councillor Claire Wright’s proposal to refer the CCG’s decisions to the Secretary of State for Health. Councillor Shaw, who also addressed the Devon meeting, said afterwards that he was ‘incredibly disappointed and frustrated by the unnecessary and damaging delay’. Sixty protestors, from Honiton, Seaton, Colyton and other parts of Devon, had waved placards outside County Hall and had then watched the Scrutiny Committee, some of them jeering when it was proposed to delay the decision.
Councillor Shaw later expressed his satisfaction with the outcome of the EDDC meeting, which he said ‘put saving the beds back on the agenda’ and pointed the way for Devon County Council’s Scrutiny Committee to follow when it reconvened. He said, ‘I am very pleased at the strong cross-party case made for East Devon hospitals and especially the mounting support for looking again at the CCG’s completely indefensible abandonment of Seaton. Keeping beds in Seaton has had tremendous backing this week, including not only from Councillor Moulding but also Councillor Hall from Axminster, and Mike McAlpine, Chair of the Committee for the Axe Valley Health Hub. Seaton’s Deputy Mayor, Martin Pigott, made an excellent case at County Hall.’
Councillor Shaw said it was very obvious that CCG representatives, Dr Sonja Manton at the Devon meeting and Dr Kerr at EDDC, had refused to answer direct questions about the flawed case for axing Seaton’s beds. ‘I am optimistic that when this comes back to Devon, councillors on the Health Scrutiny Committee will pick up the Seaton issue and we will finally get justice for our communities.’
Independent East Devon Alliance County Councillor for Seaton & Colyton