Chairman’s Chat 2018

It’s almost a year since we last got together at our AGM, and, looking back, it’s a year that seems to reflect the old Punch joke about the curate’s egg – “good in parts”! Your League’s been able to support the many services in “our” hospital once again, and our strong partnership with the Ottery Help Scheme has not only helped increase community use of our minibus, it’s been key in our support for bringing “The Project” to Ottery and so helping to improve mental healthcare services for our children and young people. Thanks to our Hospital Business Manager, we’ve overcome what could have been the somewhat ironic problem of not being able to hold our Committee meetings at our Hospital because the doors are now firmly locked at the end of the working day! We’ll soon have our very own website. And we started “Your Health Matters”, an initiative to bring together a list of all the health and wellbeing services being provided around our town and villages by all the local NHS and County Council.

The “good in parts”, though, is because despite having had meetings and discussions with RD&E’s Chief Executive and Directors, we’re still unsure exactly what’s being planned for the future of our Hospital building. There’s still a whole range of activities and services taking place there – don’t think it’s closed, it’s still a place of vibrantly busy healthcare – but at the time of writing (late February) the wards and several of their side-rooms are locked, empty and unused, and to me that’s a terrible waste of a valuable public-service asset. And I’m very concerned about suggestions that Ottery should adopt the “Budleigh” model, where NHS Property Services Ltd rents the Budleigh hospital building to a community interest limited company that in turn rents space in the Hospital to NHS and Council services and voluntary groups …. to me, all that “playing shops” simply introduces layer upon layer of wasteful costs and paperwork. Wouldn’t it be better and more efficient if the hospital building was run directly by the NHS as part of East Devon’s health and social services estate?

But I can end on some positive news. When we asked our Coleridge GPs what services they’d like to see improved and developed for our town and communities, their answer was quick and clear: children’s and young people’s mental healthcare, dementia care, and end-of-life care. So those will be our priorities for 2018/19 – as I said at the beginning, we’ve already made a start by supporting “The Project” to extend its services to Ottery from Chard and Axminster where it’s been running for some years now. And we’re looking at what additional dementia and end-of-life services are already proving effective in other parts of Devon, to see what might be transferable here and make a long-lasting difference. (We know, though, that whatever we support must complement statutory services and be something that’s not sustainable beyond its launch and early years.)

Last, but not least, we’re still fully committed to seeing “our” Hospital at the centre of services for everyone in our community, young, old and in-between, treating ill-health and promoting good health.

So there’ll be a lot to discuss in the coming year. Do please join – your view matters.

With best wishes