A MEETING in Crediton on Tuesday evening was the first of six that could end with a different health service for Mid Devon.

People meeting at Crediton Rugby Club were drawn from various parts of the health service, plus members of the public and councillors, for the first Mid Devon Health Summit.

More meetings are to be held this month, the next one at Okehampton, then Cullompton, Hemyock (Blackdown Hills area), Moretonhampstead and Tiverton.

At present a range of healthcare services in the community are provided by Northern Devon Healthcare Trust. Northern, Eastern and Western (NEW) Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is responsible for buying these services on behalf of the community.

The contract is due for renewal next year and future needs must be specified before Christmas.

Chairman of the meeting, Richard Ward, Practice Manager at Chiddenbrook Surgery, Crediton, hoped this was "the start of a conversation between people involved in health care to try to get the best we can."

He said the NEW Devon CCG needed ideas from the public and professionals. "I hope this will be a refreshing opportunity for us," he said.

Explaining that he had been at Chiddenbrook for seven years, Mr Ward explained that he lived in the area and his interests were the same as those at the meeting.

The area involved includes villages around Crediton such as Bow, Cheriton Bishop and Cheriton Fitzpaine. He hoped a plan could be developed "to take forward and refine."

Mr Ward stressed that this was not a political exercise but "a chance for the community to put their views forward. Near the end of the meeting, people split into groups to look at opportunities and challenges.

Attenders were given a feedback form that included a list of 10 services to list in order of personal importance, such as district nursing, minor injury units, community physiotherapy or inpatient beds in a community.

A presentation of estimated changes in the local population was given by Dr Alex Degan from Mid Devon Medical Practice with surgeries at Witheridge, Cheriton Fitzpaine and Morchard Bishop. He is involved in the Clinical Commissioning Group for Mid Devon.

He said Mid Devon worked closely with Exeter and the far east of Devon such as Axminster, Budleigh Salterton and Exmouth, with a population of a little less than 900,000 and containing 127 GP practices.

The area stretches from Okehampton to Hemyock.

The budget for 2012-13 was £1.1 billion with health services provided by a number of different agencies such as the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Hospiscare, South West Ambulance Trust and Virgin, which had recently taken over provision of children's services across Devon.

Dr Degan said the voluntary sector such as Macmillan, Age UK and Marie Curie, would be more important.

He said there was "a whole raft" of community services such as district nursing, minor injury hospitals and physiotherapy at present provided by Northern Devon Healthcare Trust until October 2015.

"We are asking for your help. We have to design, or possibly re-design, community services and find someone to provide this after 2015. We want to work with you over the next few months," he said.

However, Dr Degan said there was "a finite amount of money". Health services had to be balanced with resources, while providing high quality services that would compare well nationally, with people being treated as close to home as possible.

One aim was to move the focus away from treatment-based services to prevention, with the individual being at the centre of the CCG aims.

One challenge ahead was that people were living longer which tended to bring long-term conditions and an increasing demand on health and social care services.

By 2026, the number of people above the age of 85 in the area would have doubled to more than 900 and the population of Crediton would increase by 1,033 - five per cent.

"We want to hear how you want your services structured within our limited resources," he said.

Asked what ideas the CCG itself might have, Dr Degan said community services were important and the CCG had "an idea" of what it could invest from 2015.

Asked if there would be any changes to Crediton Hospital, Mr Ward said he could not make any promises but that Crediton had "a really strong identity with the health community."

John Finn, managing director Eastern Locality, commented that the role of the GP was important in making decisions about health and locality care.

He gave a short presentation on how services are used now and where the budget was spent.

This included £631 million on secondary care, £231 million on community services, £69 million on mental health and £83 million on complex care.

Sue Read