Majority of Ottery Town Council remarkably unconcerned about the future of their hospital

From the blog of Claire Wright. It seems remarkable that the abstaining councillors were so similar and united in their views.

“For the first time in many years, I left an Ottery Town Council meeting in pure frustration last night, at councillors arguing against the creation of a working group to help secure the future of Ottery St Mary Hospital.

A straightforward and uncontroversial proposal… or at least, so I thought!

A few weeks ago, I met with Cllr Geoff Pratt (EDDC ward member for Ottery Rural and Ottery Town Councillor), Margaret Hall (retired GP and chair of West Hill Parish Council), Elli Pang (Ottery Town Councillor and chair of the local Health and Care Team Forum) and her colleague, Leigh Edwards.

We discussed the risks facing Ottery St Mary Hospital and the risk of it being sold off for development by NHS Property Services – and how we might move things forward in a productive way.

Currently the hospital is less than 40 per cent occupied and a whopping £200,000 a year rent must be paid to the company, which is wholly owned by the Secretary of State for Health. The rent is mostly covered by NHS England at the moment, with some paid by the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, which runs the services there.

Cllr Pang said at this meeting and at the town council meeting last night that it was difficult to make progress on this for a number of reasons, namely trying unsuccessfully to engage key stakeholders and also having the clout to deal with NHS Property Services, which is well known for the aggressive way it deals with its tenants rents, often increasing the rent suddenly and significantly, without apparently caring whether or not the tenant can actually pay.

At the end of our meeting we agreed to ask Ottery Town Council to agree to setting up a working group specifically to move things forward, which would have the advantage of being part of a legally constituted body and one where other people from other areas could be invited onto it.

I am not a member of Ottery Town Council, I attend as the Devon County Council and to give my report. I asked to contribute to the debate, however, as the subject of the hospital is close to my heart and I have spent many years working to try and protect it and prevent the loss of beds.

As one councillor after another spoke it was clear, apart from Cllrs Geoff Pratt and Roger Giles, that the others were opposed to the working group being created.

Various spurious reasons were cited for being against the working group, including:

-There was already a working group set up (there was not)
-It would be better for such a group to be independent from the town council (it would have more clout and relevance to be part of the town council)
-It was duplication (no, it was building on the work of the Health and Care Team Forum)
-It might close down the Health and Care Team Forum (it would not)
-Our proposal was unclear (it was perfectly clear)
-We were insulting the Health and Care Team Forum (no one did this)

After trying to reason with the town council, and then hear several of them speak afterwards as though I had said nothing, I felt my frustrations boil over.

I couldn’t bear to hear any more utter nonsense on the subject, so I prepared to leave before the vote took place, as I could see which way it was going.

Before I left I told them that there was absolutely no reason whatsoever that the town council should not support the proposal and if Ottery Hospital was sold off to developers in a few years time, that each and every town councillor who voted against the proposal would need to examine their consciences.

After I left Cllr Giles asked for a recorded vote so that the minutes listed the way each councillor voted. This proposal was voted down.

I was informed later that after about an HOUR of debate, the vote took place. The councillors who objected to the working group all abstained, apparently on the assumption that their abstentions would result in the failure of the proposal. Instead the vote was carried with eight abstentions and three votes in favour. This was met with much debate and disbelief.

Several then councillors asked that it be recorded in the minutes that they abstained because the proposal was unclear.

On the way out I slammed the glass door, which I am told this morning, resulted in the glass fracturing. This is regrettable.

I have agreed to reimburse the council for the replacement glass, which will need to be in instalments.

A councillor (I am not clear who as the message was relayed by the clerk) has demanded I apologise for “storming out of the meeting.”

My reply was: “I will apologise when those town councillors who sought to obstruct the safeguarding of Ottery Hospital by arguing against setting up the working group and abstaining in the vote, apologise to the residents of Ottery.”

I now look forward to the first meeting and getting on with trying to safeguard our hospital.

Voting in favour of the working group were: Roger Giles, Geoff Pratt and Peter Faithfull.

Those abstaining were: Anne Edwards, Elli Pang, Paul Bartlett, Ian Holmes, Josefina Gori, Lyn Harding, Paul Carter and Glyn Dobson.”

“Axe Valley healthcare campaingers launch website”

“The campaign to safeguard healthcare provision across the Axe Valley has taken a step forward with the launch of a new website.

Progress on Seaton Area Health Matters’ action plan to maintain and improve medical services in the area can now be followed at

where residents can also express their views.

The group has identified a list of priorities to safeguard healthcare provision across the local area. A ten point plan was

agreed following a series of meetings between representatives from statutory and voluntary health groups along with local councillors.

These are:

* Taking an area approach for the Axe Valley, not just Seaton.

* Improving communication and co-ordination between voluntary organisations.

* Maintaining and extending NHS services in GP practices and at Seaton Hospital.

* Meeting the challenges in older age groups – addressing chronic diseases, loneliness and isolation.

* Meeting the challenges in younger age groups – drug and alcohol addiction, housing, poverty.

* Providing mental health support.

* Tackling transport difficulties to access services.

* Promoting health and wellbeing.

* Communicating what is available.

* Dealing with co-ordination and ownership to tackle the challenges.

Steering group chairman, former Seaton Town Mayor Cllr Jack Rowland said the new website would help them to keep people informed and also receive their input.

He told The Midweek Herald: “Broadly the challenges involve trying to establish a health hub to extend the number of clinics and services at the Seaton Community Hospital site and co-ordinating the information to show the range of voluntary groups involved in providing health and wellbeing support in the area.

“We welcome input on these important issues and the website enables this to happen.”

* The new website will also post news about its discussions with the Royal Devon and Exeter Trust and the Clinical Commissioning Group as well as news from council meetings at town, district and county level.”

Essential medications after Brexit – a worrying silence

Guardian letters:

“Regarding Patrick Cosgrove’s letter (I don’t want to go blind due to Brexit, 29 October), I would like to make a similar case about type 1 diabetes.

Like Theresa May, I have type 1 diabetes and am insulin-dependent. I emailed Matt Hancock as I am concerned about how supplies of insulin will be ensured once we leave the EU. Diabetes patients may be interested in the response I received from the Department of Health and Social Care (and in knowing that Keith Vaz has emailed to say he will be taking my concerns further). The reply said the contingency plans include “precautionary stockpiling by suppliers, to ensure that the supply of insulin to patients is not disrupted”. This is worrying as insulin needs to be refrigerated and my understanding is that very little insulin is produced in this country. Perhaps Mrs May could give us some answers?
Lisa Parker
Nailsworth, Gloucestershire

• Patrick Cosgrove is not alone in trying, and failing, to find out about the availability of drugs on which he is dependent in the event of a no-deal Brexit. I am in a similar position. Over three months ago, I wrote to my MP (Julian Sturdy) and asked for “an informed comment on certainty of supply of pharmaceuticals in the event of a hard or ‘no deal’ Brexit”. Over six weeks later he replied, asking for details, which I supplied. Another six weeks have passed, 29 March looms, and I still have no information. I am coming to the frightening conclusion that no one actually has a clue about what will happen.
Steven Burkeman

• Patrick Cosgrove raises the pressing issue of medication availability post-Brexit. My own four daily doses are made variously in Austria, Germany, Spain and Slovenia. Without them I’m in trouble. But what about my son and all the other transplant patients who must have their anti-rejection meds? And those with diabetes? I await my MP’s advice, not very hopefully.

Any hope out there, anyone?
David Moore
Somerton, Somerset

• Like Patrick Cosgrove, I have hereditary glaucoma and have been prescribed Ganfort for many years. Three months ago my prescription was changed to preservative-free Ganfort. It is currently proving very difficult to obtain this due to the complexities of the pharmaceutical industry. Thanks to a diligent pharmacist, I’ve not been let down yet; my medicine has arrived monthly, but since the change in prescription it has been very delayed. I now need to order it earlier to ensure I am not left without. Last month it came via a Spanish source.

I don’t want to go blind for this “cause” either. To the government: open your eyes and see (unless you have glaucoma).
Gill Sellen
Corfe Castle, Dorset”

“Terry is dying, and there’s no one to care for him: the real impacts of the NHS crisis”

“The doctors in my practice have well over 100 years of combined experience as GPs, so you’d think we’d seen pretty much everything. But last week we were confronted with a scenario we had never before encountered.

The patient concerned – a 42-year-old called Terry – has been battling a particularly nasty form of lymphoma for several years. He’s an unconventional person, and his life hasn’t featured much in the way of stable relationships, but he has an elderly aunt and uncle who have stuck by him as he’s sought alternative remedies for the disease that orthodox medicine has been unable to cure.

He’s now arrived at the end of the line. The lymphoma is overwhelming him, leaving him incapable of getting out of bed, let alone managing his daily needs for food, drink and hygiene. While he kept mainstream services at arm’s length during his exploration of complementary therapies, he’s now relying on us in what will be his final days.

What is required more than anything is help meeting his basic human needs. One of my partners spent quite some time on the phone, organising equipment at short notice, rapid hospice outreach support and an urgent social care assessment. The social worker came to an uncontentious conclusion: Terry needed care visits four times a day. But she was sorry, this wasn’t going to be possible. It wasn’t the funding – despite ongoing budget cuts, they still have money for cases like this. No, it was staff. There are not enough care workers. They simply have no one available to look after Terry.

This is unprecedented, and I actually couldn’t compute it when my colleague broke the news. A swift look at the figures, though, tells you everything you need to know. According to the training charity Skills for Care, there are now 110,000 vacancies in adult social care – that’s around 8 per cent of all positions unfilled. And this is an exponentially increasing trend – 22,000 of those posts have been added to the total over the past year. Job turnover in the sector is around 30 per cent.

The reasons for this crisis are multiple, and most can be laid squarely at the door of the current government. Years of austerity-driven spending cuts have piled stress and pressure on staff, many of whom have voted with their feet. Others have gone for different reasons: around one in six of our care workforce have traditionally come from EU countries; Brexit Britain has become a very unattractive proposition. Caps on non-EU, “low-skilled” immigrant numbers have choked off alternative sources. And as ever fewer staff struggle to cope with constantly increasing demand, stress and demoralisation mount further.

My partner spent another hour on the phone trying to find some way of getting Terry help. The service specifically set up to avoid “inappropriate” acute hospital admissions had no available cottage hospital or nursing home beds – the only solution they could offer was to throw in the towel and admit Terry to our local district general. As winter takes hold, and yet again you hear about patients who don’t need to be in hospital “blocking” beds, remember Terry’s story.

Terry did not want to die in a busy, noisy hospital ward. He is currently being supported by a rag-tag assembly consisting of his remaining elderly relatives, a hospice night-sitter, and some capacity that my partner eventually managed to beg from the community rehabilitation team.

The government’s response to the care crisis is to be a “national recruitment campaign”, due to be launched any time now. I predict it will be as successful as that aimed at attracting an extra 5,000 GPs by 2020 (numbers continue to fall). At some point, surely, someone has to wake up and accept that sparkly adverts won’t recruit and retain staff when services are so chronically underfunded and overstretched. By then, though, it will be too late for Terry, and for many others like him nationwide. ”

Phil Whitaker

Hernandez says police have no social responsibilities – NHS and councils should take them off police forces

Owl says: this would mean the NHS and local authorities would need to create a full 24-hour, 7 day a week totally responsive crisis service!

“Police officers are not social workers or mental health workers, yet spend far too much of their time dealing with issues that would be better handled by the NHS or local authorities. I don’t think policing should be the main point of contact for people having mental health crises, and our officers shouldn’t be the lead negotiators for suicidal people. It was refreshing to hear similar sentiments aired by a senior and well-regarded police officer.”

Alison Hernandez
Devon and Cornwall Police Commissioner

Twiss gets his words into a twist – ANOTHER reason we need independent councillors!

This time from the blog of DCC EDA councillor Martin Shaw.

“Conservative County Councillor for Honiton, Phil Twiss told Devon County Council on 4th October that ‘Sonja Manton [Director of Strategy for the Devon Clinical Commissioning Groups] said at the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee the other week that there no plans to close any community hospitals in our area. We were talking about Seaton, Honiton and Axminster at the time.’

I was surprised that he should give us this good news in passing, and that the CCG had made no announcement of something so obviously important. So eventually I watched the webcast of the Health Scrutiny meeting on September 20th. Although Sonja Manton spoke several times, I couldn’t find her saying anything like what Phil said – indeed anything about community hospitals at all.

So I emailed Sonja and she confirms she didn’t speak about the hospitals. As for the issue, all she would say was, ‘I can assure you that our continued focus remains on planning and commissioning services and support to meet the needs of the Devon population in the best possible way. We recognise how strongly communities feel about community hospital buildings and will continue to work with communities and stakeholders to modernise and evolve the way our services are delivered and where they are based to make sure we make best use of all our resources and public estate.‘

So was Sonja more forthcoming at another, presumably private, meeting, Phil? Or was what you said wishful thinking?”

@philtwiss’claim that @SonjaManton said ‘there are no plans to close any community hospitals in our area’, not backed up by @NEWDevonCCG. What’s the explanation, Phil?

Why we need independent councillors

From the blog of Claire Wright. The review would NOT be happening without Claire’s dogged persistence (and similar action by EDA Independent Councillor Martin Shaw. Without them these issues would be kicked into the very, very long grass!

“A Devon wide review of how carers are coping will take place, following my successful proposal at last month’s Devon County Council Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee meeting.

I had been carrying out research into this area since January, when I asked for more information on a scrutiny report, which suggested that carers may be struggling.

I had a meeting with officers and asked for a report of a focus group that was carried out last autumn (2017). …

The results (which I was asked not to publish) were worrying. In almost all areas carers who took part indicated that they were worse off, or saw services being poorer.

What came out strongly to me that the three key areas of health, financial support and respite care, were all deemed as being poorer, according to the carers who took part.

I proposed a review at the June scrutiny committee meeting but chair, Sara Randall Johnson suggested a meeting with Devon Carers staff first, at the Westbank League of Friends. Devon Carers is commissioned to provide support for carers in the Devon County Council area.

This was a useful meeting. What emerged for me, among other issues, was that under the Care Act 2014, the bar has been raised by the government for both financial support and for respite care so it is now harder to access. I am quite certain that this is partly the reason that carers are finding things tougher.

I asked for a further agenda item for the September Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee meeting. I invited two carers who had asked for my help – Maureen Phillips and Mary Hyland, who gave powerful and moving presentations of their experiences of caring. Maureen, for her father and Mary for her partner.

Mary said there is no respite care available. And that overnight she became a carer, she was thrown into it, she knew nothing about it and had to give up her job. She has no support and finds it hard to even leave the house. Previously, she was a very outgoing person, even having her own programme on BBC Radio Devon. She said she was there on behalf of all local carers. Everyone is finding things hard.

The committee was silent.

Maureen said she had been the carer to her father for eight years. Life is exhausting, demanding, frustrating and isolating, she said. Maureen said specialist support workers are required. She said both she and her father need emotional support. She asked who she should turn to when things get tough. There is a shortage of care workers. In the last eight years she had one holiday. She had to take her father with her. Maureen said she had to fight for every bit of support. She has turned to the services of a solicitor in desperation.

When I made the proposal for a spotlight review at the September meeting, it was seconded by the chair and agreed by the committee. I hope to have a date for the first meeting soon.

We need your help! If you would like to take part by giving your story to the spotlight review, please get in touch at – many thanks

Here’s the webcast: You can see Mary’s and Maureen’s presentation under public participation –

The agenda item itself is under number 12..”