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Philip Evans


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HONITON: Hands off our hospital

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Concerned residents have issued a ‘hands off’ warning to health bosses, after it emerged last week that hospital beds could be cut across East Devon. Executive members of the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) revealed last week that the current total of 64 beds at five East Devon hospitals – including Honiton – could be slashed to 48, possibly spread across two or three sites. The changes could mean hospital beds are reallocated either to Honiton or Ottery Hospital, with the other absorbing more day services, and various options are being looked at as part of an ongoing consultation exercise. No decisions will be made before November but NHS bosses have given the clearest indication yet that resources will be streamlined, and anxious residents have now spoken out against the possibility of beds being lost. Heather Penwarden, chairman of the Honiton Hospital League of Friends group, said the hospital was a key community facility and a loss of beds would be “tragic”. She added: “Our community hospitals have cared for generations of local people and they are deeply embedded into our way of life. “It would be tragic if we were to lose them altogether and I sincerely hope that the NEW Devon CCG hears the concerns of local people and can find a way through these challenging financial times to provide the kind of local health care that we all want.” Speaking at a recent East Devon District Council meeting, Tamara Powderley, an executive member of the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (NEW), said the current model was not economically efficient. Ms Powderley said it was important to maximise bed space after finding that more than 30 per cent of in-patients at Honiton Hospital had been from outside the area over the last six months. She stressed that NEW members are in the process of fully “understanding” the situation before making proposals. She said: "If you seek to diagnose before you understand, it is malpractice. By the end of July or the first week in August, this locality will have understood." When put under pressure by Ottery councillor Roger Giles, she promised that any proposal would be subject to proper consultation "involving everybody". Reacting to the latest developments, Councillor Caroline Kolek, Honiton Town Council’s Health and Social Care Champion, said: “I am very concerned about the potential loss of beds at our local hospital, especially as the new head of NHS England has stated that smaller community hospitals should play a bigger role in the care of older patients. “Travelling to the RD&E, or indeed any other local hospital, causes issues particularly for those who are frail.” NEW has made no secret of the fact that it is keen to see more people being cared for at home as opposed to in hospital. But Honiton Mayor Peter Halse told health bosses the NHS system was too “complicated” for people to understand, and that it would be difficult to sustain community care alongside the other cuts to public services made by Devon County Council. A spokesperson for GPs in Axminster said the Devon CCG was one of the highest overspent bodies in the country and that an organised plan for “considerable savings” would have to be drawn up, otherwise cuts will be imposed. The CCG also encourages residents to read and comment on its ‘Transforming Community Services’ document, which is available online at A final decision on the service review is expected in November.

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