A crucial meeting is being held this morning (Tuesday) to decide on the future of North Devons community hospital beds. Since June, Northern Devon Healthcare Trust (NDHT) has been consulting on how it will cut its 74 community inpatient beds down to 40. Bideford, Holsworthy and South Molton hospitals beds are all at risk, with Ilfracombe also included in the process, though its beds have been shut since November due to staffing problems. This morning NDHTs board meeting will review the results of the consultation with the public, stakeholders and clinicians. A 62-page report being presented to the board states that the preferred option would be to retain beds at two hospitals: Holsworthy and South Molton. The report states that from the consultation, option A, to retain beds at two community hospitals, was preferred among everyone. Of the 593 responses to the public consultation, 53 per cent of those who chose option A wanted to retain beds at Holsworthy and South Molton. However, among clinicians consulted, the majority preferred the option of keeping beds at South Molton and Bideford hospitals. The consultation process by NDHT also gave the options of moving community beds to North Devon District Hospital (NDDH), or keeping one community hospitals beds open and move some beds to NDDH, neither of which were preferred. Last week 45 GPs wrote to the Trust airing grave concerns over the plans, claiming the closures were untested and could be dangerous for a significan population of patients. A 2,500-strong petition will also be handed over to the trust at the meeting by Torridge District Councillors. Signatures have been gathered from concerned residents across the Torridge District over the last four weeks. Cllr Philip Hackett, who represents the rural ward of Cobham Bridge, said: I would really like to thank all the residents who have got behind this petition. Clearly there is a lot of support to safeguard these well used and much needed community beds. The response has been phenomenal and makes a compelling case which hopefully the NDHT board wont be able to ignore. NDHT said it believes it can provide a better model of care for patients, focusing on maintaining their indepedence by supporting them at home.Check back later today for the decision from the board meeting.