Motion passed in favour of maintaining existing number of community hospital beds in East Devon

Representatives of the NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group attended a recent meeting on 22 June 2017 of East Devon District Council’s Scrutiny committee, whose members had asked for assurances that packages of care for patients will be both adequate and in place before any inpatient bed closures commence.

Dr Simon Kerr, who currently chairs the Eastern Locality of the NEW Devon CCG and John Finn, Deputy Chief Operating Officer for Planned Care and Programmes, who was attending on behalf of Chief Operating Officer Rob Sainsbury, were robustly questioned on the value of their evidence, which was used in the decision made to close inpatient beds. The committee also queried those actions of the health service, which appeared to be deliberately reducing patient referrals to those hospitals indicated as losing beds once the new model of care implementation went ahead.

At the end of the debate, Dr Kerr reiterated that current care levels would only get worse if no action was taken, and that no beds would be closed until implementation was confirmed as safe and in place to deploy.

The Scrutiny Committee agreed the following resolutions:

• The Committee reiterates its strongly held view that the existing level of community hospital beds in East Devon should be retained, and that there should be no further closure of community hospitals in East Devon.

• The Committee expresses its great concern at the proposed drastically reduced level of hospital beds in East Devon, particularly in view of general population growth projections, and projected increases in the population of elderly people - already some of the highest levels in the country.

• The Committee is greatly concerned that the NEW Devon CCG decision, if implemented, would result in no community hospital beds east of Sidmouth, which would leave residents in a huge swathe of rural East Devon remote from the nearest hospital facility and with poor public transport connections to the nearest hospital.

• The Committee is greatly concerned that evidence of satisfactory replacement care services, and detailed financial costings, has not been provided by the NEW Devon CCG, despite being requested to provide such information by the Devon County Council Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee on 7 March 2017, and by East Devon District Council Scrutiny Committee on 24 November 2016.

• The Committee is greatly concerned that the NEW Devon CCG appears determined to press ahead with closure of beds and hospitals in east Devon, despite lack of evidence to justify closure and establishment of care at home services.

• The Committee is still of the view that the comparison to Northern and Western Devon areas is unfair as the demographics are not the same in Eastern Devon.

• The Committee agrees to write to the Devon County Council Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee, urging it to refer the NEW Devon CCG decision to the Secretary of State for Health, as a matter of urgency, because of a lack of assurances or evidence of the practicality of the proposals. The letter will also express concern that a lack of early submission will result in NEW Devon CCG going ahead with its unpopular, unjustified and damaging proposals;

• The letter will also reiterate a request that other health services such as the Minor Injuries Unit and maternity unit in Honiton remain ‘ring-fence’ protected for a period of time to be determined, before review in three years.

Councillor Roger Giles, Chairman of East Devon District Council’s Scrutiny Committee, said:

I would like to thank Mr Finn and Dr Kerr for attending and answering questions. I would also like to thank the Committee for their robust debate. However,   I am particularly disappointed that the CCG have failed to provide evidence that an adequate replacement care at home service can be provided. The case made by the CCG just does not stand up to scrutiny. The CCG admitted on 22 June that they are unaware of how many staff will be needed for the new service - yet claimed a figure of savings that would result. The CCG has completely failed to address previously expressed concerns. East Devon District Council’s Scrutiny members strongly urged the CCG not to proceed with its highly unpopular and damaging proposals.