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Written by Al Findlay   
Tuesday, 14 April 2015 00:10

The chairman of the Save Our Ottery Hospital group, (SOOH), James Goddard, presented the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, meeting at the Knowle in Sidmouth on 23rd February, with a petition. It had been signed by 1,900 local residents. They wanted to ensure that their views, that the inpatient beds and the minor injuries unit at the Ottery St. Mary hospital, should remain open, were conveyed to the group. On its current proposals, the CCG plans closure of these facilities.  

There are three local members on the newly-formed Stakeholders Group, set up by the CCG. The representatives are the chairman of the League of Friends, Adrian Rutter, Town Councillor Martin Thurgood and District and County Councillor and Parliamentary Candidate Claire Wright. James Goddard said “we are grateful for the work our friends are doing but the fact is that the group that was formed specifically to represent the views of local people lacks direct representation, despite our repeated requests. Our members feel that they have been ignored, although they attended meetings in their hundreds and presented a considered and objective submission to the CCG. They believe that as their hospital is likely to be very badly affected by the proposals, the representation from Ottery should include them.”

Philip Algar, a SOOH committee member, noted that the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, like others in the region, has been on “Black Alert”. “It would be optimistic, with the winter not yet over, to expect a significant improvement in the immediate future. The problem of bed-blocking remains and our members cannot understand why closing inpatient beds at a community hospital near Exeter makes sense. Our members also wonder why the apparently necessary financial cuts are concentrated on community hospitals that account for a very modest share of the overall budget.”

James Goddard, commenting on the current situation at the Ottery hospital, said that SOOH was very pleased that the stroke beds and the facilities available had been praised by patients and medical staff alike. “However, it is my understanding that the provision of the stroke beds is not necessarily permanent. Whilst SOOH is pleased that the 16 stroke beds and eight medical beds mean that the hospital is making a significant contribution to the health of the local community, we wonder how long that situation might last. We fear that, if the stroke beds are eventually moved elsewhere, the surviving eight medical beds would also be removed, on economic grounds, and that the hospital would be under threat again. We can only be cautiously optimistic.”