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AXMINSTER: Doctors will press to keep beds in Axminster

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Axminster-based GPs will “do their utmost” to keep in-beds open at the town’s hospital, and are asking locals to play their part. Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (NEW CCG) had already admitted that the 10 in-beds at Axminster Hospital are under review. But a wider picture was given when NEW executive team member Tamara Powderley and Seaton-based GP and NEW member Dr Rob Daniels addressed East Devon District Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee this month. They said that the current model of lots of units with few patients is not economically efficient. Various options are looked at and the current total of 64 in-beds at community hospitals in Axminster, Seaton, Honiton, Ottery and Sidmouth could be slashed to 48, possibly spread across two or three sites. It was stressed, however, that no formal recommendation has been made, let alone a decision. GPs based at Axminster Medical Practice issued a joint statement saying: “We would like to stress that to our knowledge no final decision has been made as yet but Axminster in-patient beds, together with those in other local community hospitals, are seriously under threat. “Over the past 18 months the CCG has been talking to all local communities in East Devon about what the public want from their NHS. “Following these meetings they have produced a discussion document about ‘Transforming Community Services’ (TCS). “Among other things this describes reducing the total number of Community Hospitals in East Devon and the total number of in-patient community beds. “It also includes promoting several new initiatives with the remaining community hospitals and looking at various other models for caring for patients, who would otherwise be in hospital, either Wonford or a community hospital. “This includes Hospital at Home schemes. No costings for these various changes have been included in the document, neither the potential savings of closing parts or all of various community hospitals or indeed the new costs associated with some of their new plans. “In the current climate of extreme austerity this would seem to be very relevant. “These changes in our Community Hospitals come on a background of severe financial problems within the NHS, especially locally. “Devon is one of the 11 highest overspent CCGs in the whole country and at this present time the situation is under investigation by specialist accountants employed by NHS England. “In 2012/2013 £25M was drawn from the reserves to level the budget, in 2013/2014 the CCG were £14.7M overspent and the CCG predict an overspend of double that in the current year 2014/2015. “Because of this if we do not produce an organised plan for considerable savings in the current year various cuts will be imposed on us. “Finding cuts in suitable areas is proving very difficult especially as over the past four years there has already been an enforced four per cent reduction in annual budget each year. “The TCS document implies producing savings by having less community hospitals but also describes many new services, which may in the long term produce savings (eg more preventative measures at a local level), but will initially increase costs. “It also talks of trying to reduce hospital admission rates by increasing other community services, which may in turn produce savings. “We think it should be made very clear that for some time now (years) the GPs have been doing all they can to avoid hospital admissions and the Wakley area [which includes Axminster] have one of the lowest standardised admission rates compared to other localities. “We have yet to hear the predicted savings from the various closures being considered. “Because of the circumstances the CCG is being pressurised into making rapid decisions about where to save money. “The Axminster doctors feel there is still a place, and a need for certain patients to be in a community hospital bed and not in Wonford. “We accept that in the present situation over 20 beds in Axminster is excessive but reducing to ten (as at present) is too few. “We now have to admit to Wonford patients who would previously have been looked after in Axminster Hospital. “We view the community hospital beds as an asset to both the community and Wonford as most patients there would otherwise have been in Wonford. “For this reason we look forward to the Axminster hospital beds being managed by Wonford and thus providing a more seamless basis for care rather than the Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust NDHT as at present. “This is, of course, assuming that we can keep the in-patient beds in Axminster at all. Health Hubs? “Also, as yet we are not clear as to the precise savings that could be made if two or three community hospitals were to be changed to Health Hubs and the only Community in-patient beds be concentrated in two or three sites, not five as at present. “Lastly, we would like to remind the public of the arrangement the CCG have with Wonford when beds at Wonford are in short supply. “This is called the CCG escalation framework. “When Wonford notify the CCG of a Red Escalation status then the CCG automatically ‘flexes up’ all additional beds in the community hospitals to assist Wonford with their bed crisis. “This would no longer be possible with less community beds. “A Red escalation status used to only occur in the winter during flu epidemics or excessive staff sickness but now they occur all year round, the last time being last week. If you, the public, do feel strongly that Axminster Hospital in-patient beds should continue, then please write or contact the CCG and make sure your feelings are heard. They have asked for comments to be in by July7th. “This is really important. If Axminster in-patients were to close, or indeed the whole hospital, it would be very difficult to reverse the decision. “The Axminster GPs will continue to do their utmost to maintain in-patient beds in Axminster and, indeed, as many other facilities as possible at Axminster Hospital.” The TCS document is obtainable from Keri Ross Community Relations Manager for Northern and Eastern Devon CCG, Newcourt House, Old Rydon Lane, Exeter, EX27JU. Alternatively, phone 01392267680 and ask for the Strategic Framework for Community Services or download the document from


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