Ottery Community Hospital – a campaigner speaks on council in-fighting

Text of address to Ottery Town Council by Philip Algar, a long-term campaigner for the Ottery hospital, including its in-patient beds:

“OSMTC 29th NOVEMBER 2018

As an interested member of the public, I have attended almost all the town council meetings over the last few years. During that time, I have seen the councillors confront many issues, some trivial and some serious. However, I have not seen a collective, note the word “collective”, and timely public effort by the council as a whole to support those of us who have been campaigning to save the Ottery hospital. I can think of nothing that is more important to the local people than having access to a well-located modern greatly-valued hospital and this, surely, justifies your collective support. Why has such support been missing?

Whenever the subject of the hospital’s future has been included on the town council agenda, the main speaker, often the only speaker, has been one councillor, who, quite correctly, has said that she does not speak for the council but for a group of which she is a leading member.

As recently as last August, I asked the council to adopt an official and supportive role but nothing happened and, as far as I know, my suggestion that the hospital should become a community asset, which was rejected by EDDC, was not challenged by this council, even although such status has, I am told, been granted to other hospitals. I had suggested in advance that it might be wise to devise a response in anticipation of a negative decision.
All this is why I shall no longer be attending your meetings which will be good news for many of you. Furthermore, the well-intentioned and hard-working unofficial groups have failed to make much progress with the official bodies and, apparently, admit this. That said, it would be helpful if they were more communicative with the public.

Given this lamentable situation, it was hardly surprising that three councillors, backed by a county councillor, suggested setting up a semi-official working group to solve the crisis. Three councillors voted in favour and six, according to the draft minutes of the meeting, abstained.
I was astonished to learn that, allegedly, some councillors construed this as a defeat for the trio. That is breathtaking and worthy of Private Eye. If this is true, it also exposes a level of ignorance that calls into question the competence of those involved. If it is not true, I withdraw this comment immediately.

Now, despite an objective explanation from Dr. Margaret Hall, explaining that, effectively, NHS groups, apparently, will only discuss matters with official groups or those under the aegis of the council, you still chose to organise this meeting, at an unusual time when so many residents are at work. I note the comments that this meeting was planned as councillors were attending a finance meeting. The claim by the abstainers, that they did not have sufficient information, has already been undermined by Dr. Hall’s contribution so why have another meeting?

This, presumably, is an effort to overturn the initial decision on the creation of a working group. The agenda also raises the possibility of supporting a decision that has already been agreed after a vote of three to nil, and which has now been explained by Dr. Hall. I find the possibility that organising a meeting to consider reversing the democratically-taken decision to be a truly ludicrous waste of time and totally unnecessary.
Those who were penalised by the decision to remove inpatient beds and now face the prospect that the hospital may not even become a hub, deserve much more from their councillors.”

End: 29.11.18

Chaos mounts on best way to save Ottery hospital – together or apart

Owl says: what a dreadful thing to make this issue an area for political point-scoring and petty feuds!

“Fighting for the future of Ottery Hospital should be ‘top priority’ says residents as they called for more support and transparency from town councillors.

The council chamber was filled to capacity for an extraordinary meeting re-examining a decision by the town council to support or rescind a motion to set up a hospital working group.

The proposal was passed at the start of the month, with many councillors abstaining as they said they did not have enough information.

Residents speaking at the meeting last Thursday said they felt there was lack of support from the council and were baffled to revisit the decision due to the weight and transparency a working group could show.

Stewart Lucas told members the council contributed hugely to the community but needed to listen to concerns as the town’s population continued to grow.

He said: “I for one believe the protection and the support of our local community hospital is an issue that should be right at the very top of the priorities of the council, and I feel the people of this town deserve to know that is a priority and that their feelings and opinions are valued and taken into consideration and that there is full transparency.”

Last week, health ministers gave firm reassurances the hospital has 
a ‘sustainable future’ but resident Ian Dowler said there needed 
to be more than a ‘glimmer of hope’.

Mr Dowler said: “Ottery does need to retain, not just the hospital services that it has at the moment but it needs to expand and utilise the space that’s there.

“With people living longer, Coleridge (Medical Centre) is bursting at the seams. Surely common sense would dictate that an overspill surgery be created at the hospital among other health departments, which would take some of the pressure off the RD&E?

“We need to take affirmative and positive action and no longer rely or applaud these sad and pathetic reasonings that all shall be well. It’s not acceptable.”

Councillors voted to defer making a decision until February to allow organisations involved in saving the hospital to meet and gather information.

Cllr Glyn Dobson said: “We all want to save the hospital, perhaps we want to do it in different ways. The health and care forum is doing a good job, there are five councillors on there and the results have come out this week in the Houses of Parliament that Ottery St Mary Hospital has a good chance of staying open.”

https://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/calls-to-make-ottery-hospital-top-priority-following-debate-for-need-for-working-group-1-5808858

Ottery Town Council has very oddly-timed meeting (2.30 pm, 29 November)on future of its hospital … under very unusual circumstances …

Ottery Town Council is behaving VERY strangely ……….

“An Extraordinary Town Council meeting to ‘re-examine’ a decision to set up a working group to retain Ottery Hospital, will take place next Thursday (29 November) at the unusual time of 2.30pm.

Four councillors – Dobson, Holmes, Gori and Edwards have signed the paperwork required to trigger the meeting, at which councillors will decide to ‘support or rescind’ the decision made earlier this month to set up the working group.

At the Ottery Town Council meeing on Tuesday, a proposal 6 November for a working group to help retain Ottery’s community hospital was approved by three votes to eight abstentions.

Next Thursday’s meeting is convened on the grounds of not having enough information, despite myself, Cllr Geoff Pratt, Roger Giles and Dr Margaret Hall (chair of West Hill Parish Council) explaining at length the proposal.

I’m kind of speechless at the apparent determination of some town councillors to thwart plans to save our hospital.

And I have never known an Ottery Town Council meeting in public to take place in the middle of the day either.

Dr Hall’s letter to Mayor, Paul Bartlett, setting out the background to why there is a need for a working group, was published on this blog earlier this week, here – http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/west_hill_parish_council_chairs_letter_to_ottery_mayor_explaining_working_g

Members of the public are able to make representations at the beginning of next Thursday’s meeting.

If you have a view, please do go along and express it.

If you have no view but wish to attend the meeting, please try and be there.

It will be held at the town council offices, just off The Square.

It is only by seeing the strength of feeling in the town to protect the hospital that councillors may relent and allow this vital work to happen.

Unfortunately, I am in London that day, so will be unable to be there.

The agenda will appear here shortly – http://www.otterystmary-tc.gov.uk/Ottery-St-Mary-Town-Council/Default-24395.aspx

Pic: Over 200 people who attended mine and Cllr Giles meeting in October 2014 when Ottery Hospital’s beds were first threatened.”

http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/extraordinary_town_council_meeting_to_re_examine_hospital_working_group_dec

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.”

http://www.claire-wright.org/index.php/post/just_three_ottery_town_councillors_back_a_working_group_to_protect_ottery_h

Hospitals should not be used as “weapons”

Here are some images of a few of the responses in the Sidmouth Herald to Hugo Swire after his claims that campaigners for Ottery St Mary Hospital are “anti-Tory” and have “weaponised” their campaign (click on images for better view):

  

     

The “army” “weaponising” Ottery Hospital!

A few of the “weaponised army” at Ottery Hospital – the strapline picture from the blog of tireless health campaignet Claire Wright – the picture shows 2 children, a dozen ladies of a certain age and two mem. Can anyone see any weapons! Do placards and peaceful protest constitute weaponising?

Added to which, Claire Wright looks distinctly unarmed!

or perhaps this is more appropriate:

or this:

 

and remember, Swire signed up to this:

Swire accuses Ottery hospital campaigners of “weaponising” their cause

In an extraordinary rant – no cancel that, Swire seems to be ranting much of the time these days so it isn’t at all extraordinary! – Swire accuses those campaigning for the retention of beds (gone)and services (some) remaining of “weaponising” Ottery St Mary hospital. By implication, he appears to include his arch-enemy, Claire Wright in this “weaponisation” (aka peaceful campaigning).

In a recent Exmouth Journal article (which they will presumably allow campaigners to respond to as a right to reply) he says:

“Regrettably, Ottery Hospital has been weaponised by an anti-Tory coalition for nigh on ten years with them telling a naturally alarmed local community that it will be sold off or closed. I have spent 10 years trying to counter this scaremongering. … “

He then goes on to puff up his recent visit to Ottery – well what do tou call a hospital with no beds? – let’s say “closed community bed building” with the new Secretary of State for Health, when said Secretary refused to meet tireless campaigner Claire Wright and other local people who are keeping up the pressure on him and his mates – though rumour has it that Sarah Randall-Johnson was somewhere in his vicinity. You know, the woman who thinks her DCC committee has no need to scrutinise these changes.

SWIRE MAKES NO MENTION OF THE FACT THAT THE MINOR INJURIES UNIT AND ALL INPATIENT BEDS HAVE ALREADY BEEN CLOSED AT THE HOSPITAL DURING THIS SO-CALLED 10 YEARS!!!!!!!

He says we must look to the future not back at the past and see how our changing needs can be met.

Owl has a suggestion: with the ageing population in East Devon how about a Minor Injuries Unit and Community Hospital beds?