Ottery Hospital League of Friends has been listening carefully to all the suggestions and proposals for the future of our Hospital and its place in the East Devon health and social care system. We’ve been along to all the public consultation meetings, we’ve heard the CCG explain their aspirations and reasoning, we’ve examined their data and talked through their reasoning with them, we’ve heard from local GPs, and we’ve considered all the worries that many people have expressed and that we share after our long record of working with the Hospital and its staff in all their guises since 1994. And we’ve been quiet so far not because we don’t care but because we’ve been thinking about all we’ve heard.
Our position is simple. We want Ottery Hospital to be one of the vibrant centres of our community, improving the lives and the health of thousands of people of all ages every year. We want it to be an essential part of an integrated health and care system for Devon, and it doesn’t matter to us if services are provided by the NHS or by Devon County Council, or if they’re labelled “health” “social care” “wellbeing” “medical” “preventative” or anything else, what matters is that they meet the needs of all the people of all our communities across the area.
We’ve seen the way that other public services in our town have been slashed to meet budget cuts. And while we of course accept the need for the NHS to control its spending at a time when our aging population in particular has greater and greater needs, we think it’s a real mistake to start with the budget and try to force services into a shrinking box – instead, get the right services doing the right thing for the right people in the right place and the budget savings will fall out without any further pain.
So we’ve now made up our minds. We are passionate and determined to keep our Community Hospital. We recognise the sense of maintaining the number of community hospital beds while combining them in three sites. We acknowledge that the CCG has looked at all the relevant factors such as need, travel and population increase. And we see our modern hospital site as a convenient and ideal bridge between the RD&E in Exeter and East Devon in general.
We therefore ask the CCG and the RD&E to now say precisely what services they propose will be offered at Ottery Hospital from April 2015 through to 2020 at least. And we challenge Devon County Council and our County Councillors to step up and join in this debate – why does Ottery have so little care and residential home provision compared to other parts of East Devon, and what’s happening with the daily at-home carer services so many frail elderly people rely upon to keep them healthy and out of hospital beds of any sort?
It’s time for some proper answers. And make no mistake: while we accept that the next 20 years for our hospital may be as different from the last 20 as our modern hospital is from Mrs Eliot’s first Cottage Hospital, we’ll say again that we are passionate and determined to keep Ottery Hospital at the centre of our community.