AS many Courier readers will know, inpatient beds at Crediton Hospital have been permanently closed.

A Judicial Review, initiated by Ottery St Mary against this decision of Northern Eastern and Western Devon Community Commissioning Group (NEW CCG), was lost on appeal, which is most disappointing.

I am writing primarily to profusely thank all those patients who fought to keep the beds open by writing letters to the Courier or the CCG, detailing the huge benefits they or their relations had previously experienced there, and also to those who described the massive problems they encountered after the beds had been closed, including some most moving letters.

I must also thank members of the Save Our Hospital Beds (SOHB) campaign, who fought a brave and morally just battle that gave a very clear signal to the CCG’s “Consultation” process, but which in the end carried no weight: this, in spite of numerous representations and a petition of nearly 4,000 signatures.

Among these members, special thanks go to Mary Collins, Chairman of the Hospital Friends, the late Pauline Thomas, Cecily Easden, Frank Letch, Sue Read, Paula Kovacs, John Higgs, Ron Cuthbertson, Judi Binks and others.

Some interesting points arise from this experience:

1. A “Consultation” means no more than that, and should never be taken too seriously by the public as an opportunity for an effective challenge.

2. One of the CCG’s arguments for the closure of our beds was their choice of an arbitrary “Crediton Cluster” (the total number of patients in Chiddenbrook, Newcombes and Bow surgeries) to define the patient-catchment area of our Hospital.

This produced a figure of 16,897 patients, which was much lower than Okehampton Hospital’s 27,108 (the latter boosted by including two traditionally Crediton villages).

But of course Crediton Hospital’s actual figure when the beds were functioning was about 25,000, to include our traditional, vast rural hinterland – Cheriton Fitzpaine, Tedburn St Mary and practices near the A377 spine road. 

The CCG’s smaller “Cluster” gave specious strength to their argument that Crediton was not big enough to justify beds, even though in fact it was virtually identical with Okehampton (Eastern Locality Blueprint Document – July 2014, updated November 11, 201 pp7&8).

The judge remarked that: “There was nothing to suggest that the CCG’s methodology was wrong and yours was right.”

But ironically, the CCG, in their recent planning for Crediton Hospital now uses a patient-catchment figure of approximately 32,000 – considerably more than Okehampton’s, which still has hospital beds! Naturally this change of heart is very welcome, but a bit late! 

3.  We should be proud of the strength of local support for our Hospital in Crediton, but must now harness that energy to make sure that the promises made to us of “Care Closer to Home” is properly implemented in the new planning for the Crediton Hospital Centre; and also, crucially, to make sure that NHS Estates never sell the hospital, into which so much local enthusiasm and money has been poured.

In short: while positively supporting the CCG’s new plans, we must remain extremely vigilant.

Again, thank you all for your unstinting support. Hugely appreciated!

Dr Christopher