Fears for future of Axminster Hospital

08:30 10 January 2014

Axminster Hospital

Axminster Hospital

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Town council urged to seek assurances there are no plans to close it

Fears are growing for the future of Axminster Hospital.

Town councillors will be asked next week to formally seek assurances there are no plans to close it.

Deputy Mayor Douglas Hull has highlighted concerns about the number of patient beds now being funded there.

In a resolution he says: “I understand that there are over 20 bed spaces at the hospital. The NHS Trust was funding the use of 18 beds but is now only funding 10.

“The people of Axminster have, over the years, raised a lot of money for the hospital and we have a dedicated staff there.

“I therefore call upon Axminster Town Council to ascertain the future of the hospital, believing that this is an essential asset to the community of the Axe Valley.”

Fellow town councillor and hospital League of Friend’s committee member Mervyn Symes is also calling for assurances.

He said: “We cannot be too complacent as I fear at some stage one of the local community hospitals could be mothballed.

“Along with other committee members I will be the first to fight for the retention of our hospital and its facilities. We are aware of the concerns of the local community, in particular with an ageing population, for the need to retain our hospital and I’m sure we can rely on their support should the need arise.”

Cllr Symes said that since a public meeting, last March, involving health chiefs and the MP, he had been involved in the set up of an umbrella committee, along with the League of Friends. The group met regularly and monitored issues and patients’ concerns with regard to booking appointment levels, bed availability and day case surgeries.

“We endeavor to encourage the increase in day case surgeries via discussion with the NHS, providers and the Care Quality Commission,” he said.

Jac Kelly, chief executive of the Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “In agreement with the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, the number of inpatient beds in use at Axminster Hospital was reduced to 10 in July.

“This was due to a combination of factors, including the changing needs of patients, more stringent national guidelines on safe staffing levels on wards and local and national strategy for more people to be supported to live safely and independently in their own homes.

“Our community nursing and therapy teams do a fantastic job caring for people in their own homes, enabling them to avoid admission to hospital.”

Speaking for the clinical commissioning group, John Finn said: “As part of the national transforming community services’ programme we are evaluating all our commissioned services to ensure that they meet local and future needs, and are affordable, high quality and sustainable.

“As part of this we will involve and listen to local people, clinicians and organisations about how they would like to see the future of healthcare in Axminster.

“We held a health summit in the town in summer 2013 that gave people the opportunity to get involved the future of community services. At the event people told us that their highest priority was to be cared for as close to home as possible. We will now work closely with the local healthcare trusts to look at the best ways we can make this possible.

“We have worked closely with a local patient representative group, made up of Axminster Hospital’s League of Friends and a local councillor, to look at how we could maximise the use of surgical services at Axminster Hospital.

“The group met on four occasions during the second half of 2013 and told us it was happy with the work we have done with the Devon Access and Referral Service to make sure local patients are given the choice of being referred for treatment or outpatient services at Axminster Hospital where appropriate.”

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