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Tuesday, September 02, 2014
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EAST DEVON: The fight is on to retain hospital beds
Tuesday, 24 June 2014
Health bosses have given the clearest indication yet that the number of beds at East Devon’s community hospitals could be cut. Executive members of the locality’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) revealed that the current total of 64 beds at five of the district’s hospitals - in Axminster, Seaton, Sidmouth, Honiton and Ottery St Mary - could be slashed to 48, possibly spread across two or three sites. The changes could mean hospital beds are reallocated to two sites, with others 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 made no secret of the fact that they are keen to see more people being cared for at home. Speaking at a recent meeting of East Devon District Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, 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 talked about having the right number of beds in the right place, saying, for example, that more than 30 per cent of in-patients at Honiton Hospital have been from outside the area over the last six months. She stressed that NEW members were 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 St Mary councillor Roger Giles, she promised that any proposal would be subject to proper consultation "involving everybody". When contacted by Pulman’s View, the Sidmouth Hospital Comforts Fund declined to comment while the consultation process was still ongoing, but Devon County Councillor and Independent parliamentary candidate Claire Wright said communities were not prepared to handle the cutbacks. She said: “The NHS locally and nationally is in serious financial difficulty, largely due to government cuts that are being called ‘efficiency savings’. The NHS is certainly not protected from cuts, as we have been led to believe. “However, I am unconvinced that closing beds and diverting staff to travel to people’s homes is going to save money or provide equally good care, particularly when there is going to be a big increase in the East Devon population due to a large amount of housing being approved.” In a letter to Pulman’s View, NEW chairman Dr Tim Burke said there were “more possibilities than ever before” to improve community services but that they must be “reshaped” to be more “effective and efficient”. See page 13 for the full letter. 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. Seaton Hospital Leagueof Friends is adamant that people admitted to hospital should have the option to be treated locally, saying: “We believe that for many local people Seaton Hospital is and will continue to be the best option.” The CCG also encourages residents to read and comment on its ‘Transforming Community Services’ document, which is available online at http://bit.ly/1l33EAl A final decision on the service review is expected in November.
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