East Devon hospital meeting backs call for legal action

Seaton Hospital. Picture: CHRIS CARSON

Seaton Hospital. Picture: CHRIS CARSON - Credit: Archant

The prospect of a legal challenge to the closure of hospital beds at Honiton and Seaton has come a step closer.

Backing for court action came at a packed public meeting in Colyford on Saturday, attended by more than 150.

Cllr Martin Shaw confirmed he was calling on fellow members of Seaton Town Council to take legal advice over NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) decision to remove all inpatient beds from the resort’s hospital.

And Honiton campaigner Gillian Pritchett said she would be speaking with a Judicial Review lawyer today (Wednesday, March 22) over the exclusion of Honiton beds from the options in the CCG’s recent public consultation.

Axminster mayor Paul Hayward, speaking in a personal capacity, also supported legal challenges and said that he would push for his town council to consider this action in the weeks ahead.

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Councillor Shaw said grounds for a legal challenge to the Seaton decision could include that the CCG had broken promises made when Axminster’s beds were lost, that it had ignored and distorted the results of its consultation, and that it had used misleading comparisons between the demographics of Seaton and Sidmouth.

He reminded the meeting that Seaton Hospital had been built with the equivalent of £1million raised by the Seaton, Beer and Colyton communities in the 1980s. Morally it belonged to them, not NHS Property Services, he said.

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Independent councillor Claire Wright, who successfully proposed that Devon County Council’s health and wellbeing scrutiny committee refer the CCG’s decision to the Secretary of State, said that CCG members had appeared ‘unconvincing’ and ‘uncomfortable’ when arguing that its new model of home care would work.

The meeting agreed to pressurise town and parish councils and EDDC to take effective, action but if they did not, campaign supporters should take the initiative.

It also backed the proposal of Seaton deputy mayor, Jack Rowland, for a ‘red line’ protest outside Seaton Hospital at 10am on Saturday, April 1.

Explaining the reasons for the bed cuts, Dr Tim Burke, chairman of NHS NEW Devon CCG, said: “Too many people are in hospitals when they don’t need to be there. There is a growing body of evidence that the solution lies in developing community services outside hospital, which in turn reduces the numbers of people unnecessarily admitted to hospital. We need to be focussing more resources on providing better care for people away from hospitals.”

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