Readers’ letters: As an election brews, a new hospital for North Devon...

Readers' letters. Picture: Alex Walton

Readers' letters. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Picture: Alex Walton

This week the attention of readers of the North Devon Gazette turned to promises being made by the Conservative government as it tries to sell its domestic agenda in the midst of the Brexit crisis.

First Geoffrey Cox announced new hope for Appledore Shipyard, then Peter Heaton-Jones revealed plans for a new hospital in North Devon.

It's almost as if there are votes to win.

A number of readers keenly put pen to paper for the Gazette's letters page for the edition of October 9.

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AK Smith, of Bideford, wrote:

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A quick note for MP Peter Heaton-Jones. At an average cost of £500million to build one state-of-the-art hospital, it's hard to see how Johnson's going to build 40 when he's only pledging £13billion. And they say Diane Abbott can't count.


Michael Durrans, of West Yelland, wrote:

Sir (Peter Heaton-Jones MP)

Your announcement of a new hospital for North Devon is great news. However I have little bells of alarm ringing. I hope its not going to be a PFI like the Labour party of Tony Blair has saddled communities with. That costs the tax payer millions of pounds for both poor quality buildings and over priced maintenance. £150 for a light bulb, we've all heard the stories.


Dave Clinch, of SOHS Devon Campaign, wrote:

A general election approaches.

Perhaps readers might benefit from a reminder of what the Tory Party of Mr Heaton-Jones has inflicted on the NHS in North Devon and beyond

In July 2013 it was announced that Torrington Community Hospital beds were going to be closed. It was the test case, the 'test of change'.

The Save The Irreplaceable Torrington Community Hospital (STITCH) campaign was formed. There were several packed public meetings, a parish poll with over a thousand people voted to reinstate the beds with just twelve voting against.

71% of Community Hospitals have been closed across Devon following the 'experiment' in Torrington because this Government and its ConDem predecessor inflicted 'austerity' policies upon the NHS, along with the rest of the public sector, including for example, the implementation of universal credit and the fearful inquisition of people with disabilities by outsourced government agents regarding the removal of their benefits in several cases.

It was announced by the clinical commissioning group (CCG) that £557m cuts were to be made by 2020/21 across the NHS in Devon.

Save Our Health Services Devon (SOHS Devon) was formed in April 2016 to campaign against the threatened closure of the acute services at the North Devon District Hospital, following the leaked publication of a document entitled The Case For Change.

It was made clear by the CCG and the North Devon Healthcare Trust (NDHT) that 'nothing was off the table' when considering where cuts could be made in the second remotest district hospital in Britain. There were to be 'no red lines.'

The SOHS Devon campaign North Devon Sees Red was launched by leafleting towns and villages across the area, organising many packed public meetings, a large march to the NDDH, a massive demonstration with over 5,000 people in Barnstaple on 22 October 2016 and a 'we are the red line' day of action at several community hospitals in April 2017.

Advice on how the cuts were to be made across Devon was given by the health consultancy Carnall Farrar who were paid over £650k. Ruth Carnall, a director of that company, was later appointed chair of the risibly named Success Regime which was created to oversee the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP). The SOHS Devon campaign, nevertheless, was successful in preventing the acute services at NDDH being cut, albeit it was agreed that they'd be back again.

Now the bureaucrats at the clinical commissioning croup and the North Devon Healthcare Trust are back with their eye on key areas of 'challenge' at NDDH, ie maternity, Paediatrics, stroke, obstetrics, oncology, acute medicine, trauma and orthopaedic and care for the elderly.

When asked by an observer at the September board meeting of the NDHT whether or not the above services would not be cut, the CEO Suzanne Tracey was unwilling or unable to give a guarantee.

Suddenly, however, there are now millions of pounds available, according to Mr Heaton-Jones MP for North Devon as he announced funding for a new hospital last weekend. That the current hospital is in danger of further cuts on the grounds that it has a staffing problem is completely ignored. 'Perverse' hardly explains it.

The cynicism of the Tory government and its parliamentary representative in North Devon is breathtaking. Community hospitals closed, patients families having to travel long distances to see loved ones, for example. More isolation, the increasing likelihood of avoidable death.

This Government needs clearing out as soon as possible. Should a Labour government be elected it will have to undo the mess, beginning with bringing the NHS back into full public ownership, ridding it of all the private companies that are sucking it dry, along with the exorbitantly paid senior managers and their expensive advisers, who have spent years carrying out government cuts, sometimes aggressively, at other times with a pacifying smile and the sickly spectacle of hand-wringing.

Meanwhile, I look forward to the SOHS Devon campaign ramping up the defence of services at the North Devon District Hospital and also across the county.


Jeremy Bell, of Appledore, wrote:

I realise that a general election will probably be announced shortly, but the Conservative party's recent, crude propaganda is really galling. It is treating the electorate of Torridge and North Devon as if we are all simple minded, and suffering from collective amnesia.

Geoffrey Cox MP is quoted as saying: "Peter Heaton-Jones has been working flat out with my help to get a new hospital built in Barnstaple in the next ten years."

Flat-out usually suggests an all-out effort to secure an outcome to the exclusion of other work.

Do they both think we have all forgotten about the closure of our cottage hospitals and other health care facilities, just at a time when the population of the area has been expanding rapidly?

And now, surprise surprise, according to Geoffrey Cox, no less than Boris Johnson is keen to see Appledore shipyard re-opened.

Nothing like an election to get the magic money tree producing a bumper crop.

And that's just in our area.

The conservatives are also promising 20,000 more policemen (having cut a similar number), a £10+ an hour living wage in five years (which was already in the pipe line), billions more to be spent on education, and in order to keep us at the very top of the prisoner incarceration table - longer prison sentences so that younger felons can learn more sophisticated way's of getting away with breaking the law.

The only promises missing, which really disappointed me, was a policy to eradicate sin by the end of the next parliament, and a postcard to all electors wishing them a Happy Brexit.

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