• Local Healthcare

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    30 September 2016

    We are currently in the early stages of a 3 month consultation on the future of local healthcare – the proposal is to close the hospitals in Bovey Tracey and Ashburton and move to a new model of local healthcare delivery. I spent considerable time last week engaging with local GPs, the League of Friends and participated in and addressed a Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) public consultation event. There is understandably huge apprehension about the future of local healthcare and massive concerns about the hospitals. Financial pressures driven by higher nurse to bed ratios, greater modern-day training requirements, the rising costs of ever more sophisticated drugs and treatments and the challenges of a rapidly aging population with ever more complicated needs are all piling on the pressure. In addition, the projections are for significantly increased numbers suffering from diabetes, dementia and heart conditions. To cope we need to make changes. What these should entail is the subject of the consultation. The proposal is for a mix of healthcare resources – our largest hospitals (such as Torbay), large community hospitals (such as Newton Abbott) and local Health and Wellbeing Hubs along with additional local nursing home provision. The Health and Wellbeing Hubs to support patient care at home and the nursing homes to offer space (with support from local healthcare professionals) for those who need a bed but whose condition does not require the facilities of an acute or larger community hospital. The theory is that we could look after more people for the budget, more often in their own homes - where this is typically their preference - with a focus on better public health outcomes with the backup of local beds supported by appropriate professionals. There are however some real challenges. Where will the Health and Wellbeing Hubs be sited? How will we meet the challenge of staff recruitment? Is there a danger that the Hospitals will close before the Hubs are operational? If the hospitals are sold then what proportion of the proceeds will accrue to the benefit of the local communities who in part funded their creation and maintenance? What effect will the new model have on the obstacles to receiving care for those without a car? Where are the local care homes that will provide the additional bed capacity and is that new capacity going to be sufficient? How can we be certain that the already overstretched provision of healthcare home visits in our more rural locations can be effectively ramped up? There are, of course, many other questions besides. I have agreed with local GPs and the League of Friends for each of the hospitals to liaise closely with them as I press for the answers. And not just answers alone but firm commitments on the details that must underpin any promises of how this new model is going to work going forward. We have to change but must do so on the basis of clarity and confidence that any new approaches will actually deliver.