Devon Senior Voice is not against change, but its members are concerned about the emotional stress that is being caused by the threat of bed closures in community hospitals.
It is a fact that the majority of occupants of these beds are senior citizens who have reached an age where they no longer have the energy to fight their corner and who frequently have partners of the same age.
It is often forgotten how large Devon is: it is 2,590 square miles, which if this is expressed as a square is 51 x 51 miles. For many elderly people, travelling 10 miles is stressful.
Historically, the ‘cottage’ hospitals were set up to ensure as far as was possible that the distances between these premises was manageable and that the countryside was well covered. We now have reducing public transport in the countryside, so travelling without owning a car is becoming difficult – and many older people have driving licence restrictions.
We appreciate the concept of staying at home, but we would ask that, even before discussions about bed closures start, distances between hospitals are considered, together with the size of the population.
We ask that the NHS – both the two clinical commissioning groups and the health trusts – state how many community beds are planned for our ageing population, ie beds per 1,000 people, and also the distances planned between hospitals.
We would also ask that no final decision is made on bed closures until the alternative community services are in place and proved to be working, especially in rural areas.