UNDER a new model being proposed by Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (NEW Devon CCG) beds in some community hospitals in East Devon will be cut in order to promote alternative ‘home-based care’ — but assurances have been made that there are no plans to close facilities in West Devon, writes Zoë Uglow.

Concerns have also being raised over the future of out-of-hours healthcare in Devon as many services have already been cut.

GP Dr David Jenner, chairman of the Eastern locality for the Clinical Commissioning Group, explained why the NEW Devon CCG is proposing cuts to community beds in East Devon, he said: “Bed-based care will always be available for people who need to be in a hospital but we need to make sure the alternative of home-based care is always considered.

“Too many people are currently in hospitals that don’t need to be there and they could be receiving a better service at home.”

The governing body of the NEW Devon CCG met on Wednesday, September 28, to consider giving the go-ahead to the consultation. They also gave the public the opportunity to have their say.

The previous week, on Wednesday, September 21, the chairman of the Friends of Okehampton Community Hospital, Martin Perry, heard the proposals put forward by the NEW Devon CCG, who purchase services for the NHS in Devon, to cut half of the inpatient beds in what they describe as ‘East Devon’, which has also included West Devon areas like Okehampton.

Mr Perry said on hearing the proposals: “This is outrageous when only a few weeks ago we were assured our hospital in Okehampton was secure and, if anything, under utilised.”

The hospitals current 143 beds are to be reduced to 72, which are located at three hospitals instead of the current seven.

Previously the NEW Devon CCG’s ‘Success Regime’ produced a document entitled ‘Case for Change’, which implied that Holsworthy hospital was running with less than its optimum sixteen beds — suggesting that the hospital is financially inefficient.

This may cause concern among people in Holsworthy, with regards to the future of their community hospital provisions, now that proposals to cut beds in East Devon have been put forward.

In response to the NEW Devon CCG proposals, John Allen, trustee and member of the Holsworthy Hospital League of Friends, said: “From initial reading of the proposals we don’t look to be affected by these plans, and we hope it stays that way.

“After all of the hard fought battles we have had in the past we hope that we will be able to keep our community hospital beds as they are such a vital resource for Holsworthy.”

Geoffrey Cox, Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon, met with Caroline Dawe, deputy chief officer at the NEW Devon CCG to speak about the future of out-of-hours healthcare services and local community hospitals.

Mr Cox said: “I know that many people have also raised concerns over the future of our community hospitals in Bideford, Tavistock and Holsworthy, and I have been given reassurance today that there are no plans to close these facilities.

“I will discuss this further when I meet with Angela Pedder, chief executive of the Success Regime, and I will also make a strong case for the maintenance of key services at NDDH at this meeting.”

Dr David Hillebrandt, a semi-retired GP from Holsworthy, has previously voiced his concerns over NEW Devon’s proposals to close community beds.

Whilst the new proposals for the closure of beds in East Devon are going to consultation Dr Hillebrandt hopes the public will stay vigilant as GP Out of Hours Services are being drastically reduced. He said: “Interestingly whilst these bed closures are being discussed the whole of Devon is looking at a drastic reduction in GP out-of-hours services, which starts today [Monday, October 3].

“Holsworthy and Bideford out-of-hours services have ceased to exist. Okehampton service is reduced. The whole of Devon will be covered from midnight to 0800 from only four centres: Derriford, Exeter, Barnstaple and Newton Abbott.

“This means that if one is taken ill with an urgent GP problem in Holsworthy one is looking at a drive with a round trip in excess of 80 miles. Realistically it is very unlikely you will get a home visit. Not very good for our old and frail population.

He added: “Noises are being made about cross border cooperation from Cornwall but it is virtually impossible for the general public to get information on the hours that out-of-hours centres in Launceston or Stratton will be medically staffed.”

The public has responded to the NEW Devon CCG proposals with an online petition entitled ‘Stop North Devon District Hospital possible closures of essential services’.

The government’s department for health responded on the petition’s page, they said: “No decisions have yet been made and the input of local communities will remain important throughout the process. Any significant service change proposals will go through formal public consultation.”

They added: “Reconfiguration of front line health services is a matter for the local NHS. The government is clear that service changes should be tailored to meet the needs of the local population, and led by clinicians, not driven from the top down.”

If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures it will be considered for debate in parliament — closing date to sign is October 29.

l The Friends of Okehampton Hospital are scheduled to meet NEW Devon’s clinical commissioning group (CCG) on Tuesday, October 11 in Plymouth.

Mr Perry said that despite the board’s decision not to reconsider Okehampton’s case he would still raise the issue on behalf of the patients and public.