Liberal Democrats lead lobby against rural hospital closures

25 Jan 2024
Devon residents lobby against hospital closures

Liberal Democrats were at the forefront as Devon residents lobbied Conservative controlled Devon County Council on proposed hospital closures.

Devon County Councillor, and Teignbridge Council Leader, Martin Wrigley led a large delegation of Devon residents at a Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee. Before the meeting Martin commented, "Devon County Council have the opportunity to refer the proposed closure and ward 'hand backs' to the Health Minister. The potential closure of three hospitals in Devon is a real sign that the Conservatives are taking Devon residents for granted."

The delegation was joined by campaigners from Seaton, Teignmouth and Okehampton whose residents face the closure of their local community hospitals, or the loss of hospital wards.

Local Liberal Democrat MP, Richard Foord, has been very active in Seaton's campaign to keep its hospital open. He has commented "We’ve seen the damage caused when community hospital facilities are scaled back. People struggle to get the care they need and it adds pressure at other hospitals like the Royal Devon and Exeter. I have constituents telling me that they don't feel able to look after their elderly spouse in their own home."

Mark Wooding, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate in Central Devon, joined the lobby and said, "It is known that 'bed-blocking' is in part behind the scandalous number of people awaiting NHS treatment. Yet the NHS, in a desperate attempt to meet Government imposed 'savings' targets, seems intent on taking beds and wards out of service. Health Minister Victoria Atkins is on record as saying she wants to create 5,000 new NHS beds, but thie current round of closures and 'hand backs' of wards seems counter to this objective."

Mark Wooding at the lobby with Okehampton petition
Mark Wooding at the lobby with Okehampton petition. © David Caunter

Speaking before the meeting former Okehampton Mayor, Jan Goffey, had this to say, "Plans to hand back empty wards will cost the community far more than the NHS would save. We're talking about one part of the NHS nominally 'saving' money becuse it no longer pays it to another part of the NHS. It's akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."

Jan Goffey speaks to the BBC
Jan Goffey speaks to the BBC.

The meeting took the decision not to refer the closure of Teignmouth hospital to the MInister, asked for a further report on Seaton and made no decision on Okehampton.

"It's depressing that the Conservatives on Devon County Council seem reluctant to act in the best interests of Devon residents. They really do need to tell their colleagues in Westminster, and especially Minister Atkins, to stop ignoring the problems of rural communities," said Mark Wooding.

You can see the BBC Spotlight report on the lobby here.