Devon’s carbon emissions reduced by almost a quarter in the first lockdown: and a plan for the future

Since March 2020, tackling the climate emergency has remained a top priority, and over the last year real progress has been made to create a roadmap, which will the show the way to a net-zero Devon by 2050 at the latest.

www.devonnewscentre.info

One year on – A Day of Reflection

Thanks to more than 1,000 contributions from the public, the Devon Climate Emergency Response Group (DCERG) and its appointed Task Group of experts, headed by Professor Devine Wright, created an interim draft carbon plan.

Once completed, that plan will be the blue print to show what we must all do – residents, councils, businesses alike – to ensure that Devon reaches its net-zero ambitions.

Later this year the interim plan will be put to a ‘Citizens’ Assembly’, and then to the public.

It will commit all of the partners of the DCERG, made up of Devon’s public and private sector, local government and local economy, to do what’s necessary to reduce carbon emissions.

Individually, partners have continued within their own organisations to make changes to the way they work, to cut carbon and to enable a greener route back from the coronavirus pandemic.

The lockdown last March prompted urgent change by Devon County Council to encourage more walking and cycling and to help people get around safely while social distancing.

Pavements were widened, new paths created, and roads narrowed to accommodate greener travel options.

Emergency Active Travel Funding was used to provide new cycle routes, cycle crossings and pedestrianised areas in locations including Exeter, Newton Abbot and Barnstaple, as well as Sidmouth, Teignmouth and Totnes.  And over 200 additional cycle parking spaces were provided across 25 sites.

With some industry shut down during lockdown and with people working from home where they could, the county saw considerably fewer vehicles on the roads.  Cycling levels last year were up around 50 per cent compared to 2019.

Research in Summer 2020 showed that during the first lockdown, Devon’s carbon emissions reduced by almost a quarter.

“We have an opportunity to introduce transformative change and not just tinker around the edges,” said Professor Devine Wright.

“Ideas that, pre COVID, were perhaps considered too controversial or too expensive, are now, for a limited window at least, entering the minds of national leaders.”

Photo of Dr Phil Norrey, Chief Executive of Devon County Council

Dr Phil Norrey, Chairman of the DCERG and Chief Executive of Devon County Council said:

“In a most tragic of circumstances, the lockdowns have given a glimpse of how a more sustainable Devon might look, feel and sound.

“People have experienced quieter streets for walking and cycling, and felt a greater connection and appreciation for green spaces around them.

“Amongst the sadness of the pandemic, there is a huge opportunity to use the economic stimulus measures that are necessary to enable communities to recover, to improve public health, our resilience and our wellbeing as well as address the climate and ecological emergencies.

“As we begin to recover from this pandemic, we must be careful not to fall back into the same old routines. We all must think differently about the way we work and the way we travel.”

Devon’s Covid battle a year on from the first lockdown

In retrospect, how much of our success in achieving a  low incidence of infection, hospitalisation and deaths, compared to the rest of the country, can be attributed to the responsible actions taken by a vulnerable and aged population? 

As Owl reported a year ago. The South West entered the pandemic with the oldest population (so highest expected mortality) and lowest number of critical care beds per head of population.

Owl also reported on the slow early decision taking by some local politicians, compared to MPs.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com 

It was exactly 12 months ago this evening when Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared on our television screens and told us we had to stay at home.

After weeks of what seemed like purgatory as we saw country after country go into Lockdown, England was plunged into the most drastic restrictions on everyday life since the Second World War.

Schools had already been closed, clubs, cafes, restaurants, theatres, cinemas, bookies and gyms had already had to shut their doors from midnight, and sporting fixtures had already been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic

And then in the evening announcement, the Prime Minister announced the unprecedented lockdown measures in a dramatic night-time TV address, and for us to ‘stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives’.

In his speech, Brits were told we were only allowed out once a day to exercise – the first of what turned out to be many contradictions between the guidance and the law, which has never limited the amount and frequency of exercise – and there were only four reasons to leave home, when they were 13 when the legislation was put into place three days later.

And a year on, we are pretty much in the same position as we were on that fated day 12 months ago.

Clubs, cafes, restaurants, theatres, cinemas, non-essential retail, bookies and gyms are still closed, we are still told to stay at home except for a number of limited reasons, we are still working from home (and for some of us that sadly will be permanent)

There are still severe restrictions on our freedoms and our social activities, some industries have yet to reopen and won’t for several more months, and for much of the year, Devon’s streets have been emptied and its businesses shuttered, many families have lost loved ones.

Since the start of pandemic, across the county of Devon, 32,905 people have tested positive for Covid-19, and 1,033 people have died within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test.

But despite the tragic toll that the last year has taken, it could have been so much worse.

Per population, at upper tier authority level, Plymouth has had the fewest deaths of anywhere in England, with Cornwall second, and Devon third. At lower tier level, the South Hams is the lowest, with West Devon second, North Devon third, Torridge fifth, Plymouth sixth, Exeter ninth and Mid Devon 10 th .

Tamerton Foilot, Teignmouth North, Barnstaple Sticklepath, and Dunkesewell, Upottery & Stockland have yet to see a death related to Covid-19 (as have Torpoint, Mid Saltash and the Isles of Scilly across the Tamar)

For cases, Devon has had the second lowest overall infection rate (with Cornwall the lowest), and Torbay third, and Plymouth sixth. At a lower tier level, Torridge has the lowest infection rate in England (and is the only place yet still in three figure for cases with 975), South Hams 2 nd , North Devon 3 rd , West Devon 4 th , Teignbridge 5 th , Cornwall 6 th , Mid Devon 7 th , and East Devon 9 th in the bottom ten.

Of the areas that have gone longest since recording a cluster of three or more cases, nine of the top 12 are in Devon, with one in Cornwall and one being the Isles of Scilly.

Woolacombe, Georgeham & Croyde, Salcombe, Malborough & Thurlestone and Hartland Coast have gone nine weeks without a cluster of cases, with Bow, Lapford & Yeoford, Barnstaple Pilton, Bratton Fleming, Goodleigh & Kings Heanton, Starcross & Exminster, Tedburn, Shillingford & Higher Ashton and Winkleigh & High Bickington going eight weeks.

And as of last Sunday, more than 250,000 people in Cornwall and 500,000 in Devon have had their first Covid-19 vaccine – 54.9% of adults in Cornwall and 52.1% of adults in Devon – 59.8% in East Devon, 42.2% in Exeter, 73.8% in Isles of Scilly, 52.6% in Mid Devon, 56.6% in North Devon, 46.5% in Plymouth, 56.4% in South Hams, 57.1% in Teignbridge, 58.2% in Torbay, 57.3% in Torridge and 60% in West Devon – numbers that will have risen over the last week.

Devon’s Director of Public Health Steve Brown has said that since the vaccination programme began, the numbers of people with coronavirus needing hospital treatment or dying have reduced significantly, but ‘no vaccine is one hundred per cent effective’

The latest research shows that the vaccine gives about an 80 per cent protection against needing treatment in hospital, and an 85 per cent protection from dying from coronavirus.

Mr Brown added: “There will still be people who catch coronavirus, and particularly those most vulnerable – the elderly and those who have clinical risk – who will potentially get coronavirus and still become seriously ill.

“We are going to continue to get small outbreaks in settings such as care homes, workplaces and schools. But whenever we get an outbreak, the response is quick and swift.

“Agencies (including Public Health Devon, Devon County Council, NHS Devon, Public Health England) come together. We look at how we can put in additional resources, such as additional staff or other appropriate resources, and we step up the cleaning regime for example.

“Such measures are designed to protect and safeguard those people in that setting, and to try to reduce any onward transmission.

“Even when you’ve been vaccinated, it’s still really important that you continue to adopt public health measures – stay at home. If you do need to go out, make sure that you keep social distancing, wear those face coverings when indoors in public spaces, and wash your hands regularly.”

And as the anniversary of the start of Lockdown 1 passes, the Local Democracy Reporting Service has taken a look back at the rise and fall around coronavirus in Devon over the last year, where we are now, and the roadmap back to normality that hopefully we occur this summer.

MARCH

On March 2, three weeks before Lockdown began, the first coronavirus cases in Devon were confirmed with cases at Churston Ferrers Grammar School. Galmpton Primary School and Collaton St Mary Primary School subsequently close, as does Berry Pomeroy Primary School.

Subsequently two positive cases from March 1 from Teignbridge residents were also discovered, although it is certain that Covid had hit the county in February, if not before.

Cases steadily increase in the county, with the first deaths from the virus being announced on March 20, before on March 23, in a televised address to the nation Prime Minister Boris Johnson tells all UK citizens to stay at home and protect the NHS and puts England into the first lockdown

APRIL

Throughout April, cases begin to rise, going from 154 as of March 31 to 855 by April 30, although the true number of cases is expecting to have been significantly higher as a result of the lack of testing that was being carried out.

MAY

As the effect of the lockdown continued, the number of cases in Devon being confirmed fell, with only 302 new positive cases in the month, although again, testing limitations means that the numbers were likely to have been much higher.

Starting in May 2020, the laws were slowly relaxed, as people were permitted to leave home for outdoor recreation from May 13 and to meet with one other person.

May also saw the first of many reports of ‘carnage’ and ‘gridlock’ as people flocked to the beaches, with the repeated fears that this would lead to a spike in infections – the same fears are still repeated almost a year on despite no evidence that any mass outdoor gathering has led to an increase in transmission.

JUNE

On June 1, the restriction on leaving home was replaced with a requirement to be at home overnight and people were permitted to meet outside with up to six people. Outdoor markets and car showrooms also reopened on this date, and all non-essential retail reopened on June 15.

The downward trend of cases being confirmed continues, with June 5 being the first date since the beginning of March where no positive cases within Devon were recorded, and by specimen date, there was not a single day where more than five cases across the county were recorded.

JULY

Most lockdown restrictions were lifted on July 4 as hospitality businesses were permitted to reopen. Gatherings up to thirty people were legally permitted, although the Government was still recommending people avoid gatherings larger than six.

There is a small rise in the number of cases that are confirmed in Devon – but just 62 cases were recorded in the month – and there was just a single death in Mid Devon in the month where Covid was mentioned on the death certificate

AUGUST

While the number of cases in Devon remain very low compared to the rest of the country and below the national average, the average number of cases being confirmed a day has risen from less than two at the start of August to six by the end.

Devon’s Director of Public Health, Dr Virginia Pearson, has said, adding the increase in numbers is largely due to Devon residents returning home from trips abroad, having contracted coronavirus infection while away on holiday.

SEPTEMBER

Schools return from the start of the month, and on September 14, England’s gathering restriction was tightened and people were once again prohibited from meeting more than six people socially. The new “rule of six” applied in both indoor and outdoor spaces, and eleven days later, pubs, bars and restaurants were told they had to shut between 10pm and 6am.

Cases continue to rise in Devon, as the virus begins to spread across the county again, with not all of the new cases linked to returning international travellers, which has been the pattern previously.

And by the end of month, cases had significantly risen, although mainly linked to students arriving at the University of Exeter.

OCTOBER

The month began with cases at the University continuing to rise – at one stage leading to Exeter having the seventh highest infection rate in England – but because it was concentrated around the Uni whose students were told not to mix, the area was not considered for a ‘local lockdown’

The following week, on October 14, the Government introduced a tier system and while much of the north of England was put into tougher restrictions, Devon wasn’t – it was in Tier 1 and continued pretty much as normal, with bars and restaurants open, sport being played, people meeting outdoors.

But the month ended with England being placed into a second national lockdown as a result of rising cases, which had filtered into deaths occurring in the county for the first time in nearly two months.

NOVEMBER

On November 5, national restrictions were reintroduced in England. During the second national lockdown non-essential high street businesses were closed, and people were prohibited from meeting those not in their support bubble inside. People could leave home to meet one person from outside their support bubble outside.

As the county endured its second national lockdown, infection rates initially rose from 88 per 100,000 at the start to 122 per 100,000 by the middle of the month, before falling to 77 per 100,000 at the end.

But as infections increased, the number of patients in hospital in Devon after a positive Covid-19 test rose to a higher number than at the peak of the pandemic.

As the lockdown ended, Devon was placed in Tier 2 – which allowed pubs and restaurants to reopen, but placed a ban on household mixing indoors

DECEMBER

On December 2, the tier system was reintroduced, with modifications, restrictions on hospitality businesses were stricter and most places where initially placed in tier two and three areas, including the whole of Devon.

On December 19, the Prime Minister announced that a new ‘tier four’ would be introduced following concerns about a rising number of coronavirus cases attributed to a new variant of the virus. The tier four rules were like the national lockdown rules imposed during the second national lockdown.

By the middle of the December, cases in Devon had begun to rise again, going back over the 100 per 100,000 threshold by December 14, and bar one day, has continued to rise since, ending the month at 163.6 per 100,000 population, and deaths hit levels in the county not seen since May.

The county briefly had a period in Tier 3, before England moved into its third national lockdown

But despite the doubling of cases in most areas, Devon ended 2020 with only Torbay and North East Lincolnshire having lower infection rates, and with its eight districts all in the bottom 16 of 315 in England, with Torridge having the lowest, West Devon 3 rd , North Devon 4 th , Teignbridge 5 th , East Devon 7 th , South Hams 8 th , Mid Devon 11 th and Exeter 16 th .

JANUARY

National restrictions were reintroduced for a third time on January 6. The rules during the third lockdown are more like the rules in the first lockdown. People are once again being told to “stay home”. Unlike during the second lockdown, leaving home for outdoor recreation is again banned.

January 7 saw Devon’s worst day for new cases being confirmed, with 626 added to the database, with nearly 10,000 coronavirus cases in the county confirmed in the month, with the week ending January 22 being the deadliest week of the pandemic, with 99 deaths in Devon occurring.

FEBRUARY

National restrictions remained throughout the month, but on February 22, Boris Johnson unveiled his roadmap out of lockdown, with the hope that all remaining legal limits on social contact could be dropped by June 21.

And as the vaccine rollout gathered pace, as well as the effects of the lockdown, cases and deaths in the county begun to plummet, with deaths more than halving in the space of the month, and the end of the month seeing the start of the week with the lowest number of confirmed cases since the end of September

MARCH

On March 8, the first step out of lockdown was taken, with the return of schools and the allowance that you can spend time in outdoor public spaces for recreation, rather than just for exercise.

Cases across Devon have generally continued to fall, with North Devon, Torridge, West Devon, the South Hams, and Teignbridge having the five lowest infection rates in England, all less than 10 cases per 100,000, with Devon’s infection rate of 18.6/100,000 (and falling) as low as it has been since mid-September.

On Sunday, just nine cases were confirmed in the Devon County Council area – the first time that has been in single figures since September 19.

THE ROADMAP OUT OF LOCKDOWN

MARCH 29

Outdoor gatherings (including in private gardens) of either 6 people (the Rule of 6) or 2 households will also be allowed, making it easier for friends and families to meet outside.

Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts, and open-air swimming pools, will also be allowed to reopen, and people will be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.

The ‘stay at home’ rule will end on March 29.

NOT BEFORE APRIL 12

Step 2 will see the opening of non-essential retail; personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons; and public buildings, including libraries and community centres.

Indoor leisure facilities such as gyms will also reopen (but only for use by people on their own or in household groups); as will most outdoor attractions and settings including outdoor hospitality venues, zoos, theme parks, and drive-in cinemas. Self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households, can also reopen.

Hospitality venues will be allowed to serve people outdoors at Step 2 and there will be no need for customers to order a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks and no curfew, although customers must order, eat and drink while seated (‘table service’).

While funerals can continue with up to 30 mourners, the number of people able to attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes will rise to 15.

NOT BEFORE MAY 17

Most legal restrictions on meeting others outdoors will be lifted – although gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal. Indoors, the Rule of 6 or 2 households will apply.

As soon as possible and by no later than Step 3, the Government also plans update the advice on social distancing between friends and family, including hugging – although advice has been to social distance from anyone not in your household, it has never been law.

Indoor hospitality will reopen and other indoor locations to open up in Step 3 include indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas and children’s play areas; the rest of the accommodation sector, including hotels, hostels and B&Bs; and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes.

The government will also allow some larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full (whichever is a lower number), and in outdoor venues with a capacity of 4,000 people or half-full (whichever is a lower number). In the largest outdoor seated venues, where crowds can be spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend (or a quarter-full, whichever is lower).

Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes, as well as funerals.

NOT BEFORE JUNE 21

The government will complete a review of social distancing and other long-term measures that have been put in place to cut transmission. This will inform decisions on the timing and circumstances under which the rules on 1 metre plus, the wearing of face coverings and other measures may be lifted. This will also inform guidance on working from home.

By Step 4, the government hopes to be in a position to remove all legal limits on social contact and they hope to reopen remaining premises, including nightclubs, and ease the restrictions on large events and performances.

UK faces ‘Covid decade’ due to damage done by pandemic, says report

Britain faces a “Covid decade” of social and cultural upheaval marked by growing inequality and deepening economic deprivation, a landmark review has concluded.

Patrick Butler www.theguardian.com 

Major changes to the way society is run in the wake of the pandemic are needed to mitigate the impact of the “long shadow” cast by the virus, including declining public trust and an explosion in mental illness, the British Academy report found.

Published on the anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown, the report brings together more than 200 academic social science and humanities experts and hundreds of research projects. It was set up last year at the behest of the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.

The British Academy warned that failure to understand the scale of the challenge ahead and deliver changes would result in a rapid slide towards poorer societal health, more extreme patterns of inequality and fragmenting national unity.

Government-led intervention including major investment in public services is required to repair the “profound social damage” caused or exacerbated by coronavirus across areas including the economy, mental health, public trust and education, it said.

“With the advent of vaccines and the imminent ending of lockdowns, we might think that the impact of Covid-19 is coming to an end. This would be wrong. We are in a Covid decade: the social, economic and cultural effects of the pandemic will cast a long shadow into the future – perhaps longer than a decade,” it said.

The report’s publication came as Boris Johnson delivered an upbeat reflection on what he called one of the most difficult years in the UK’s history, offering condolences to those who lost family and friends to the virus but paying tribute to the “great spirit” shown by the nation.

“We have all played our part, whether it’s working on the frontline as a nurse or carer, working on vaccine development and supply, helping to get that jab into arms, home-schooling your children, or just by staying at home to prevent the spread of the virus,” the prime minister said. “It’s because of every person in this country that lives have been saved, our NHS was protected, and we have started on our cautious road to easing restrictions once and for all.”

The British Academy cautions against overoptimism as the UK thinks about recovery from Covid, however, warning that it is “no ordinary crisis” that can be fixed by a return to normal, but one that thrived amid pre-existing social deprivations and inequalities and which has exposed deep-seated flaws in public policy.

Too many people experienced the pandemic in poor housing, were badly equipped for home schooling and home working and vulnerable to poor mental health, and found themselves at high risk of economic insecurity, the report said, pointing out that “many people are ‘newly poor’ and only one month’s wages away from poverty”.

Areas for action highlighted by the report include:

  • Declining public trust: after an initial surge in the first months of the pandemic, trust in UK government and feelings of national unity collapsed, with little sign that progress on vaccinations has halted the trend. Unless addressed, this will erode social cohesion and undermine future public health campaigns.
  • Widening inequalities: geographic, health, racial, gender, digital and economic inequalities have been exacerbated by Covid. If not tackled, they risk becoming permanently locked in, scarring the prospects of groups disproportionately affected by the social impact of the virus, such as young people.
  • Worsening mental health: soaring mental illness, especially among children, low-income households and black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, risks embedding long-term problems if the underlying causes are not tackled.

The report calls for renewed spending on community services, local government, social care and local charities, especially in deprived areas, noting that some of the most effective responses to Covid have been at a local level, where public trust has remained strong. Investment was need to erase the digital divide and establish internet access as a “critical, life-changing public service”.

With unemployment expected to rise, the report questions whether the existing social security system, which is geared more towards helping low-paid workers than people without jobs, could cope with a pandemic-induced recession, saying: “This may prompt reflection on what kind of system the country wants and needs.”

The lead author of the report, Dominic Abrams, professor of social psychology at the University of Kent, said the investment package needed would be expensive, but that much could be achieved by reframing existing policies. “I don’t think this is necessarily about extra money, it’s [about shining] a laser light over existing policies.”

Asked whether he was optimistic that the government was open to making changes on the scale the academy called for, Abrams said this was an opportunity to address a range of serious social issues that were not going away. Without a post-pandemic strategy, he said, “these things will get worse”.

Hetan Shah, the chief executive of the British Academy, said: “A year from the start of the first lockdown, we all want this to be over. However, in truth, we are at the beginning of a Covid decade. Policymakers must look beyond the immediate health crisis to repair the profound social damage wrought by the pandemic.”

Tory MPs reject inquiry into David Cameron’s lobbying for Greensill

David Cameron has drawn criticism from former ministers but escaped official scrutiny by MPs after the Tory-dominated Treasury select committee declined to launch an inquiry into his efforts to lobby government officials on behalf of Greensill Capital.

Kalyeena Makortoff www.theguardian.com (and Times cartoon Moerten Morland)

Parliamentarians have expressed concern over allegations that the former prime minister contacted the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, on his private phone in hopes of securing special access to hundreds of thousands of pounds of emergency Covid loans for the firm, which collapsed this month.

Granting Greensill access to the 100% government-backed Covid corporate financing facility (CCFF) would have meant bending the rules, since lenders are not meant to borrow money through the programme.

Pressure is now growing for the former prime minister to explain his motivations and how much he knew about the lender’s complex business model, which involved lending money to big businesses to pay their suppliers.

The former City minister Lord Myners, who has been raising questions about Greensill for months, said: “David Cameron must have been wearing very effective blinkers to have not had serious suspicions about the Greensill business. He was upfront, he was quite actively involved, and to me, the questions over Greensill’s business were quite evident within an hour or so of meeting the man [the lender’s founder, Lex Greensill].”

Meanwhile, the former Lib Dem leader and business secretary Vince Cable called for tighter rules on lobbying by former leaders. “Cameron has done nothing improper. But the rules should be tightened up so that people cannot lobby for commercial interests in areas where they have had ministerial responsibility once they leave office, which is a pretty wide area for ex-PMs. Also, there is a strong case for a register of interests to be more transparent.”

However, MPs on the Treasury select committee have turned down calls for an official inquiry into Greensill’s collapse and Cameron’s lobbying efforts. The issue was raised by the Labour MP and committee member Angela Eagle, who said there was “public interest in being completely transparent about what’s going on with Greensill, and David Cameron’s role in it”.

The committee, which mostly comprises Tory MPs, decided against launching a formal inquiry that could have compelled Cameron and Lex Greensill – an Australian sugar farmer and billionaire banker – to give evidence to MPs.

Cameron’s office did not respond to requests for comment. The Treasury declined to comment.

Matt Hancock to have final say on hospital ‘closure’ plan

The final decision over the future of proposals that would effectively close Teignmouth Hospital will be made by the Health Secretary.

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com

Devon County Council’s health and adult care scrutiny committee last week voted overwhelmingly to refer the decision made last December by the Devon CCG Governing Body to the Secretary of State.

The Devon CCG had been satisfied that the case had been made to back proposals for moving services away from Teignmouth Community Hospital, the first NHS purpose built hospital back in 1954, given that a new £8m Health and Wellbeing Centre is due to be built in the heart of Teignmouth.

But last Thursday’s scrutiny meeting saw councillors agree that they were not satisfied with the adequacy of the consultation and referred the final decision over the proposals to Matt Hancock to make.

Dr Paul Johnson, clinical chair of the Devon CCG, said that the decision was based around what is needed from the health system and that they were trying to determine the best thing for the resources and the population that they have.

He added: “It may not be the result that other people think we should have. I’m not driven by bricks and mortar but whether the buildings enable people and staff to do their job. I do think the health and wellbeing centre is long overdue and the more we can integrate with other services, the better and it is an opportunity too good to miss.”

But councillors raised concerns over both the proposed changes to health services in the area, and the fashion and manner of the consultation over the proposals, with Cllr David Cox saying that the CCG consultation was flawed as they decided what they wanted to do, and set the questions to get the answers they wanted.

Cllr Alistair Dewhirst added: “The hospital has an essential place at the heart of the community and this is the last throw of the dice. To allow the hospital to just close would be seen as a blot of your record.

“The whole of the community is against the closure, whatever the consultation says. Residents are afraid of being sent to care homes many miles away if they need to be discharged from hospital, angry at the loss of facilities, they don’t know where to turn due to the lack of a MIU, and they cannot understand why a functioning hospital at the heart of the community should be closed at a time of national crisis when hospital beds are needed more than ever.”

Teignmouth Hospital (Image: Andy Styles)

Cllr Sylvia Russell, who represents the Teignmouth ward, added that ever since the proposals back in 2016 came forward, the ‘sword of Damocles’ has been hanging over the town.

She added: “There is still a cloud over the future of the hospital and I think it is the right thing to do. We owe the people of Teignmouth to show we have done everything we can to support their view that the hospital should be retained. I want them to know we have done all we can to keep the hospital open and the campaigners cannot be ignored and we have to stay with them until the end of the road.”

She also said that as the building is owned by the Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust and not the CCG, and there has been no indication from them as to what any outcome over the future of the building would be, there was a flaw in that the wording of the consultation over the suggesting ‘it was likely to be sold off’.

Cllr Martin Shaw added: “They have left the hospital as a building without a purpose. It is a pre-pandemic proposal and doggedly pursued even though the pandemic has changed this massively,” while Cllr Jeremy Yabsley added: “We do need a re-evaluation of hospital beds post-covid.”

Cllr Hilary Ackland, acting chairman of the committee, put forward her motion calling for the decision to be referred to the Secretary of State.

It said: “This Committee notes that the actions of the Devon Clinical Commissioning Group to remove services from Teignmouth Community Hospital when the Wellbeing Centre is ready for use will result in the Teignmouth Community Hospital becoming an empty building, and as the Hospital sits within the Torbay and South Devon Foundation Trust’s estate, no consultation has taken place by the Trust with the Teignmouth area residents on the future of the hospital.

“Therefore, as no consultation process has been undertaken or even suggested by the Trust with respect to the future of the Hospital this part of the substantial change be referred to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on the grounds that Scrutiny is not satisfied with the adequacy of the consultation and this Scrutiny Committee has not been consulted, and it is not satisfied that the reasons given for not carrying out consultation are adequate.”

Save Teignmouth Hospital Rally, Teignmouth Triangle, in June (Image: Andy Styles)

Councillors voted by 12 votes to two in favour of referring the final decision to the Health Secretary.

The decision, which had been backed by the CCG Board in December, was to

  • approve the move of the most frequently used community clinics from Teignmouth Community Hospital to the new Health and Wellbeing Centre
  • approve the move of specialist outpatient clinics, except ear nose and throat clinics and specialist orthopaedic clinics, from Teignmouth Community Hospital to Dawlish Community Hospital, four miles away
  • approve the move of day case procedures from Teignmouth Community Hospital to Dawlish Community Hospital
  • continue with a model of community-based intermediate care, reversing the decision to establish 12 rehabilitation beds at Teignmouth Community Hospital
  • approve the move of specialist ear, nose and throat clinics and specialist orthopaedic clinics to the Health and Wellbeing Centre
  • request Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust consider in detail the suggestions put forward for additional services at the Health and Wellbeing Centre
  • request Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust consider providing secondary office space at Dawlish Community Hospital for physiotherapists, occupational therapists and district nurses
  • request Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust work with Teignbridge District Council to mitigate parking issues for staff and patients as far as possible, and to work to further support and enhance the development of community transport to the hospital sites

The new £8million Health and Wellbeing Centre is to be built by Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust in the heart of Teignmouth and is due to open in 2022, subject to planning permission, with an application submitted this month, but the principle of the development was not part of the consultation as it has already been agreed.

It will house GPs from Teignmouth’s larger practice, Channel View Medical Group, the health and wellbeing team and Volunteering in Health, and subject to the decision by the Governing Body, the most frequently used community clinics – physiotherapy, podiatry and audiology – would also move to the Health and Wellbeing Centre, along with specialist ear, nose and throat and specialist orthopaedic clinics.

Exeter’s mass vaccination centre to close (temporarily)

One of the largest vaccination centres in Devon is to close due to a lack of vaccine supply.

Lee Trewhela www.devonlive.com

The centre at Exeter’s Westpoint will close from April 1 with the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust stating it will have to wait to receive more information on vaccine supplies before making a decision on when it could reopen.

The news comes after health secretary Matt Hancock said delays to the UK’s Covid vaccine supply in April would not affect people getting their second doses or England’s roadmap out of lockdown.

Mr Hancock said the UK’s supply has been affected by a delayed shipment from India. NHS England warned of a reduction in supply in April in a letter sent to local health organisations last week.

In an email sent to volunteers, Leigh Mansfield – operational lead for the Westpoint vaccine centre – said: “You all be aware of the recent news around vaccine supply to the UK in April.

“What this means to us at Westpoint is that we will not receive any vaccine for first doses from March 29. The National Booking System will remain open to patients in cohorts 1-9, to book their first dose up to and including March 31. Given the very small number of patients booked on April 1-11 inclusive, we’ve taken the decision to close the vaccination centre and will move these patients forward to the end of March.

“On April 12 we will begin our second doses. We will wait to receive more information on vaccine supply for the latter part of April before making further decisions on our opening hours.”

Ms Mansfield added: “This is frustrating for us all, especially as we’ve only just begun to reach our full capacity! We’ve had a taste this week of just how many patients we can vaccinate in a day and it’s been incredible to work with you all and see your dedication and passion for the vaccination programme.

“For some of you, the rest over the school Easter holidays may be welcomed and for others we understand that you may wish to continue to support the wider vaccination effort.

“I would like to take this opportunity to once again say a huge heartfelt thank you to everyone. Your response to the vaccination agenda has been magnificent and for that we are very grateful. We still have a long way to go, so take this little hiatus to rest and recover!”

The vaccine centre opened on January 26 at the same time as The Mayflower Grandstand at Plymouth Argyle Football Club’s Home Park Stadium, allowing for thousands of people across Devon to receive the Pfizer and Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines.

A Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital spokesperson said: “If you already have an appointment over the coming weeks, whether for your first or second dose, this remains in place and it’s really important that you attend it as planned.

“We are contacting a small number of people who are booked to have their vaccinations at Westpoint vaccination centre between April 1-11 to bring their appointments forward to March if possible. Please continue to attend any booked appointments in April unless you hear from us.”