Independent EDA Councillor Shaw continues the fight for our local NHS

Thank goodness for (truly) independent councillors!


Devon County Council’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee will ask both the NEW Devon and South Devon & Torbay Clinical Commissioning Groups, which commission services in community hospitals, and NHS Property Services, which now owns the hospitals, to its next meeting on 25 January to report on the future of the hospitals now that most of them have lost their in-patient beds.

The Scrutiny Committee decided to request the discussion at its meeting yesterday (21st) after concerns were raised by Cllr Martin Shaw, who represents Seaton and areas close to Honiton, both places where hospital beds closed this summer. Cllr Shaw is pressing for the contributions to community hospitals made by local communities and Leagues of Friends to be taken into account in planning their futures, and had presented a paper on the subject to the Committee’s September meeting.

Cllr Shaw raised particular concerns over the high rents to be charged by NHS Property Services, the fact that the CCG is committed to paying for space only until the end of the current financial year, and that the CCG has specifically said that existing outpatient services are not guaranteed to continue.

‘Many services can be delivered in community hospitals’, Cllr Shaw emphasised after the meeting. “We should be talking about increasing not reducing the provision close to where patients live. If most services are concentrated in the RD&E, patients will continue to face long journeys into Exeter. With deteriorating public transport many will have to drive in and contribute to the city’s ever-growing congestion. We need joined-up planning at Devon and local levels to make the best use of the hospitals, which are community assets whoever is the legal owner.’

The motion to invite the NHS organisations was proposed by Cllr Claire Wright (Independent) and seconded by Cllr Nick Way (Liberal Democrat).

Martin Shaw
Independent East Devon Alliance County Councillor for Seaton & Colyton”

“Axe Valley health hub plan launched as campaigners fight hospital sell off”

“Campaigners will continue to fight plans to sell off Seaton Hospital and to support plans for a new health hub for the Axe Valley. …

[Independent East Devon Alliance] County councillor Martin Shaw [Seaton and Colyton] said: “Forty campaigners from the Axe Valley area met in Seaton this week to review the state of the campaign for the local hospitals.

“I told the meeting that while the battle to save Seaton’s hospital beds had been lost, it had put Seaton on the map in the forthcoming discussions about health services in the area.”

Mayor of Seaton, Cllr Jack Rowland, said that a meeting to set up a steering committee for an Axe Valley Health Hub would take place shortly.

He was encouraged that the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Trust was putting resources into this and he also pointed out that more than fifty services involving over a hundred staff were still based at the hospital.

Campaigners will continue to fight plans to sell off Seaton Hospital and to support plans for a new health hub for the Axe Valley.

In August, a vigil was held outside Seaton Hospital as the beds inside the hospital were closed, as protesters waved banners, shouted “shame”, and expressed their anger and sadness outside Seaton Hospital as the controversial closures of community hospitals began.

Plans to remove the beds from Exeter, Seaton, Honiton and Okehampton community hospitals have been met with strong opposition since they were confirmed in March.

The North, East and West (NEW) Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said the move will see more people being given care at home and save £2.6million.

Although the battle to save the hospital beds has been lost, a new campaign though has been set up in the Axe Valley area to support the development of a health hub in the region.

County councillor Martin Shaw said: “Forty campaigners from the Axe Valley area met in Seaton this week to review the state of the campaign for the local hospitals.

“I told the meeting that while the battle to save Seaton’s hospital beds had been lost, it had put Seaton on the map in the forthcoming discussions about health services in the area.”

He was encouraged that the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital Trust was putting resources into this and he also pointed out that more than fifty services involving over a hundred staff were still based at the hospital. ‘Don’t let anyone say the hospital is closed’, he said.

The meeting, chaired by Paul Arnott of the East Devon Alliance, agreed that it was necessary to establish which health services could most usefully be based in Seaton and Axminster hospitals, and this might involve canvassing the views of local residents and a number of people present offered to help with this.

The meeting decided to set up a new Axe Valley Hospitals Campaign to support the development of a health hub around the two hospitals and to oppose any proposals to sell off hospital sites.”

Should the East Devon district be split? The People’s Republic of Eastern East Devon?

A recent commentator on this blog wants to see Sidmouth leave EDDC.

This raises an interesting possibility.

There is a case for EDDC being broken up as it is already the largest District Council in Devon, and the fastest growing. Increasingly, our district council concentrates on its western side – the Science Park, Cranbrook – the LEP Growth Area – and aligns itself more and more with “Greater Exeter” with other communities feeling increasingly out on an ignored limb.

It would seem from anecdotal evidence that he vast majority of Sidmouth residents would vote to leave EDDC, especially when EDDC is cutting all its ties with the town and moving physically and increasingly representationally to Honiton/Exeter.

The interesting bit is whether other communities would wish to join with Sidmouth in a ‘breakaway’. Would Newton Poppleford, Otterton, Branscombe and Beer, Ottery, Budleigh, Colyton and Seaton be up for creating a new largely rural and coastal authority? And what to call it? Eastern East Devon? Jurassic Devon?

There would be no problem over viability. Some functions might still be shared. Others, such as street cleaning, could be devolved to town council level where it belongs.

There would be an obvious improvement in democratisation, and representation, and, crucially, a big improvement in the quality of councillors. There is also an interesting opportunity to create from the outset a non-party-political district responsible for its own planning. Far more people would stand for an authority when they had a much greater say in decisions affecting their own community; when they and they alone decided on such things as health care, education and environment without having to kowtow to “Greater Exeter”.

Jurassic Devon would have a population of about 50,000, which many would say would be close to the ideal.

Time to consider the break away?

What is the view of independent councillors at the Local Government Association?

“Dear colleagues,

It has been good to see so many of you this month at our Group Party conferences and at the National Conference of Children and Adult Services. We also ran the first module of the Next Generation leadership course. All this adds skills and knowledge to the many talents of our [Independent] members and enables us to discuss issues and craft better solutions. The regional meetings also start shortly in every area, so we shall soon be at a place nearer you to hear your views first hand. Thank you to those who made it to the recent information and development seminar on campaigning, either in person or online in the webinar.

English councils have taken a reduction of £16m in Government Grant funding from income tax, only partly offset by the 50 per cent retention of local business rates. 166 councils will be expected to pay the Government instead, further centralising money and power, exactly contrary to the agreed direction. The LGA is working hard on this in their Budget submission. 97 per cent of councils signed up to the four year agreement, but on the promise that 100 per cent of the business rates would be retained in local government, now a broken promise. If you are one of the 166 councils, have you passed a motion to seek a better deal? Please let us know.

It leaves us short of funds to run services and makes it hard to support more people with increased housing. We have called long and hard for powers and funds to build the houses people can afford. It is bizarre that councils can borrow to build a swimming pool or a hotel, but not for much needed housing, regardless of a sound business case.

Instead of lifting this cap, Theresa May has announced a £2bn fund for social and/or “affordable” housing. If you rely on the media it is unclear whether this is intended for affordable or social housing. For example, the Sky News headline refers to affordable housing while the Guardian headline refers to social housing. Whichever it is for, it is only available to some councils and then only through a bidding process, ratheru than just giving us the funds. Her calculation of 5,000 homes a year, is based on an £80,000 subsidy per dwelling, but in areas of greatest demand, where she says she wants to direct the funding, that will fall woefully short. In its budget submission, the Chartered Institute of Housing recommended an extra £1.5bn every year to build 28,000 homes.

Sadly, although genuine funds are always welcome, the fund announced by the PM will not tackle the problem. We cannot plug the housing gap while the “right to buy” continues to drain our resources. In many councils, these have almost doubled this year, each sale taking two thirds of the value out of the public purse and into central government and private hands. We have to start to limit these expensive donations to what we can afford.

We cannot flood the market to bring house prices down while demand is unrestricted. Anyone in the world can buy here, and they do. Like a foreign holiday home, the first sale brings money into the community, but after that sales are often passed from one absent owner to another and sometimes left empty – more a place to house funds, rather than people.

We cannot make housing affordable while rents spiral without restraint and “affordable” is not linked to income, but to 80 per cent of commercial value. Many people will obviously continue to struggle. A housing rent statement is expected to confirm the move back to a maximum of 1 per cent above the consumer price index.

Meanwhile, homelessness is rising. I visited EMMAUS which provides an en suite room, regular meals, a community and a job for 720 homeless people. But it uses Housing Benefit that is about to be swallowed up in Universal Credit, an issue colleagues and I have raised at all levels. Our Vice President, Lord Victor Adebowale, CE of Turning Point was on Twitter this week supporting the work of community enterprise.

Greg Clarke, one the most thoughtful of our Ministers, responded brilliantly to my question recently, pointing out that growth could be an empty target if it did not provide balanced communities with work and housing to match.

However, DCLG has a consultation out now about increasing the pressure on councils to give permissions for housing, regardless of local ability to provide jobs, services, infrastructure such as roads and schools, and regardless of land availability without damage to the environment. Our Group’s Deputy Chairman, Rachel Eburne, is on the LGA board for the Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport. She pointed out that the cross party board was unanimous in its objection to the centralised steamroller approach.

The LGA has sought powers to prevent land-banking that prevents houses being built, while councils are required to compensate by giving ever more permissions, making a mockery of a planning system which is prevented from planning ahead. DCLG has not chosen to put any pressure on the developers to get on with it, despite our calls to give councils the ability to step in. Also the viability studies remain obscure and enable developers to reject the much-needed contributions to affordable housing or infrastructure. We cannot just look at housing on its own. It must be linked to economics, environment, and sustainability.

Leader of the Independent Group
Vice Chair of the Local Government Association
Lincolnshire County Councillor and North Kesteven District Councillor”

DCC Tories torpedo Devon NHS

Yesterday the Conservative Party machine defeated my final attempt to get Devon County Council to take action over the closure of community hospitals beds. My motion, seconded by Claire Wright, asked the Health Scrutiny Committee to look again at the issues it failed to scrutinise properly in July, and asked the Council to write to the Secretary of State for Health to alert him to our concern about hospital beds. I highlighted widespread NHS concern that there will be too few beds if there is a flu epidemic this winter. My speech is available here and you can watch it and the debate in the webcast (beginning at 2.18).

The Tory response was an amendment, moved by the leader, John Hart, which took the guts out of the motion. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, it said that Health Scrutiny had ‘extensively considered the issues and concerns from members of the public, elected members and others, including medical professionals, all matters relating to the closure of some community hospital beds in Honiton, Okehampton, Seaton and Whipton.’

Instead of my proposal to write to the Secretary about the beds closures, the amendment proposed to write ‘seeking reassurance that appropriate funding is provided by government to deliver the necessary health and social care services in Devon’. Not a dicky bird to the minister about community hospital beds, the whole point of the debate.

In reply I told the Council (at 3.10) that if they passed this amendment, they would be ignoring East Devon opinion just like Kensington & Chelsea Council ignored the residents of Grenfell Tower; and the Conservative Group as a whole would have made itself responsible for the failure to properly scrutinise the hospital bed closures.

The result

Although they were not formally whipped, 40 Tories fell dutifully in line to support the amendment. There were 16 votes against (these were Liberal Democrat, Labour, Independent and Green members, together with only one Conservative, Ian Hall of Axminster).

Claire made a valiant attempt to put some guts back into the motion, with another amendment – but the Tory machine squashed that too.

Martin Shaw
Independent East Devon Alliance County Councillor for Seaton & Colyton

Do not shut hospital beds – closures not evidence-based says influential King’s Fund – too late for East Devon

Independent DCC Councillor Claire Wright – RIGHT
Independent DCC East Devon Alliance Councillor Martin Shaw – RIGHT
All Independent Councillors at EDDC – RIGHT
All Tories at DCC – Wrong
All those Tories (DCC and EDDC) who voted to support Diviani and Randall-Johnson in closing community hospital beds – WRONG

ALL the time the Independents have called for REAL evidence about bed closures.
ALL the time DCC Tories have acceptec waffle and jargon and “death by Powerpoint” instead of REAL evidence
EDDC Tories sort-of got it right and then allowed their Leader to vote WRONG so they still got it WRONG!

Why on earth are people still voting for these useless excuses for Tory representative councillors!

Kill beds, no community alternative = kills US!

“NHS bosses have been urged to halt plans for more ward closures as experts warn that hospitals do not have enough beds to accommodate patients.

Britain has fewer hospital beds per person than almost any other rich country and numbers in the NHS have fallen to 142,000 from the 299,999 that were available 30 years ago, according to an analysis by the King’s Fund health think tank.

Thousands of further cuts are being planned as part of a strategy by Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, to improve out-of-hospital care and make £22 billion in efficiency savings.

The King’s Fund said that this plan was unrealistic at a time when wards are more than 95 per cent full, well above the 85 per cent level generally thought to be safe. Hospital bosses in London are hoping to cut hundreds of beds, but the King’s Fund estimates that the city will need 1,600 more by 2021 to keep up with population growth.

Helen McKenna, a senior policy adviser at the think tank, said: “There are opportunities to make better use of existing beds and initiatives to capitalise on these should continue, but with many hospitals already stretched to breaking point, reductions on the scale proposed in some areas are neither desirable not achievable.”

Chaand Nagpaul, head of the British Medical Association, said: “Serious questions need to be asked about whether these plans are realistic and evidence-based given it defies logic to cut bed numbers when we already don’t have enough.”

Mr Stevens said that he would only allow bed closures where NHS bosses could demonstrate local alternative treatments were being put in place first or where hospitals were remedying inefficiencies. The King’s Fund said that these tests lacked any real detail.

Saffron Cordery, of NHS Providers, said: “One of the key lessons from last winter was the importance of avoiding unsafe levels of bed occupancy.”

Mr Stevens agreed that hospitals would need to free more beds during the winter, promising an extra 3,700 would be opened for the busiest time of year as hospitals were told to prevent “bed-blocking” by elderly patients.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

DCC EDA Independent Councillor joins DCC independent Councillor Claire Wright as one of the few NHS champions at DCC

“After the failed Health Scrutiny Committee meeting in July – which has led to repercussions in the County’s Standards and Procedures Committees as well as at EDDC – the full Devon County Council will be asked to look again at the issues on Thursday 5th October. I have proposed the following motion, which Claire Wright will second:

The County Council regrets the failure of the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee on 25 July 2017 to be seen to scrutinise the decision of NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group to close community hospital beds in Honiton, Okehampton, Seaton and Whipton, especially in the light of the subsequent urgent recommendation by the head of the NHS in England, Simon Stevens, which is supported by evidence from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and the King’s Fund, that more beds need be made available for the coming winter.

Noting also the Standards Committee’s conclusion that events at the Scrutiny Committee meeting ‘may not reflect well on individual members of the Council or upon the Council as a whole’, its recommendations for the Committee’s Chair and its general recommendations to both members and chairs of Scrutiny Committees, the County Council therefore

requests the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee to scrutinise those issues identified by the County Solicitor in her paper for 25 July which were not directly and fully addressed at the Scrutiny Committee in that meeting;
consistent with the Council’s ‘community champion’ role, alerts the Secretary of State to the strength of feeling in the locality at the overall STP process throughout the County and the significant numbers of objections made by the public to the CCG’sproposals and that in the interests of democracy and democratic accountability he might wish to satisfy himself that all relevant process were properly undertaken and assessed and that the CCGs subsequent decisions are supported by the evidence; and
welcomes the agreement of the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee to examine, subject to the advice of the County Solicitor, means of safeguarding community hospital buildings throughout Devon as facilities for the provision of place-based health services.

Seaton and Axminster – combined health hub?

As I have reported before, Seaton Town Council, the League of Friends and I have been discussing the future of Seaton Hospital in the light of the removal of the beds. Full details of the proposals have not been finalised, so I can only quote the report of Councillor Jack Rowland, Mayor of Seaton, to next Monday’s Town Council:

‘The next campaign is to ensure that the site is retained with a compelling case for retaining the existing services and extending these. To this end I attended a meeting on 6 September to discuss the next steps. I cannot give fuller details at this stage, but broadly the idea is to set up a Steering Committee for an Axe Valley Health Hub and to work in conjunction with Axminster to build a case for retaining both sites with complementary services.’ “

After the failure of the July Scrutiny meeting, I am asking Devon County Council to look again at hospital bed closures on 5th October