A very unfortunate decision has been taken today by the NEW Devon CCG, to press ahead with the further closures of community hospital beds in East Devon. The culling of 71 more beds out of a current total of 143 is devastating for the whole area, and especially sad for those towns to be left with no inpatient services at all. Seaton has been singled out for the particularly cruel act of only being informed at the eleventh hour that the CCG had changed their mind on the initial proposal, and decided to close Seaton beds in favour of Sidmouth. 

Whilst there is no appetite for wishing to see beds shut in Sidmouth, it is right to question the process taken to arrive at this decision. The CCG governing body were given at their meeting a presentation covering the feedback from the 13 week consultation process. This concluded that there was general support for the planned new model of care (care at home), although no detail was given to support this. The public responses showing clear majority support for the option to maintain beds in Tiverton, Exmouth, and Seaton was apparently ignored, as was the feedback that Axminster needed to be taken into consideration when siting the beds. This latter point was reiterated by the East Devon subcommittee of the CCG, who made particular mention of Axminster, but with no discernible effect. The reason given for the change from the initial plan of having beds in Seaton was the slightly larger and older population of Sidmouth. This again takes no account of the fact that Seaton Hospital has been very effectively serving the populations of Seaton and Axminster since the Axminster beds were closed. If such is the genuine basis for the decision, it is entirely baffling why this was not presented initially. What is clear is that the impact of the consultation exercise was precisely zero. 

The CCG are moving forwards with their new model of care, planning to deliver more effective health and social support in a timely fashion to prevent the need for patients to be in hospital. We wish them every success with this part of their plan. However they have chosen to resource this by raiding the local hospitals for funds and staff. The Seaton and District Hospital League of Friends will again be seeking the support of Neil Parish MP to apply political pressure to reverse this tragic decision on hospital beds in East Devon. We would encourage all those similarly minded to do likewise. 

The Seaton and District Hospital League of Friends, with the generous support of its volunteers and donors, will continue its work supporting all the services in our hospital, which include outpatient clinics, physiotherapy, and acting as the centre of operations for community nursing, community therapies, and the complex care team. In addition the League has an ongoing commitment to community projects, including Friends in the Community, and the outstanding Seaton Friends Hospiscare at Home team.

Dr Mark Welland     Chairman, Seaton & District Hospital League of Friends       2nd March 2017

The Seaton and District Hospital League of Friends met with Neil Parish MP at the hospital the day after the announcement by the CCG. With regard to the late decision to switch from Seaton Hospital to Sidmouth Hospital for the 24 bedded unit, an appeal should be made to the CCG that the population of Axminster was neglected,  having previously been given specific assurances at the time it lost its beds that Seaton Hospital would be for the whole Axe valley community. Concerning the larger picture of losing so many beds across East Devon, our MP advised that he would be speaking directly to the Minister for Health, as well as the CCG representative for East Devon. Whilst we would wish to see hospital beds retained, should it be that the CCG proceeds as laid out at their meeting, the MP and the League would like to see:

i.                     A detailed plan of implementation

ii.                   Clarity on how its quality and effectiveness will be shown and judged

iii.                  Independent scrutiny as the process unfolds

This is in line with the recent statement by Simon Stevens, Chief Executive for the NHS, that no hospital beds would be closed unless it fulfils strict conditions on increasing provision of community services. If the CCG should find their faith in a new model of care is misplaced, and it fails to provide an adequate, safe alternative, then any bed closures should be reversed.

Dr Mark Welland    Chairman, Seaton & District Hospital League of Friends        6th March 2017