CENTRAL Devon MP Mel Stride has met with the Secretary of State for Health to plead the case for Okehampton Hospital and deliver a petition which has been signed by more than 3,100 people.

Mr Stride met with Jeremy Hunt last week to deliver the petition which shares objections to Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s (NEW Devon CCG) proposal to cut all 16 in-patient beds at Okehampton Hospital.

Fighting to save the hospital beds, campaigners from Okehampton visited Westminster to give Mr Stride the petition which he has now passed on to Mr Hunt.

Subsequent to the decision to cut half of the community hospital in-patient beds across its eastern locality, NEW Devon CCG has proposed to cut Okehampton Hospital’s beds as part of a public consultation which outlines a proposed plan to provide care at home, preventing unnecessary hospital admissions.

However, the consultation document has caused controversy as it outlines 15 options but specifies four ‘preferred options’ which each entail Okehampton Hospital losing all its beds.

Mr Stride said: ‘It makes no sense for the CCG to keep in-patient beds only within hospitals in the eastern half of its area and remove the beds from Okehampton, even if alternative healthcare services are brought in.

‘This was a point I raised specifically with the secretary of state, as well as pressing him on the general issue of the need to support smaller community hospitals which play a vital role in the delivery of local healthcare in rural counties like Devon.’

The ‘Save Our Beds’ campaign, which was launched by a number of representatives in Okehampton, has so far consisted of a Facebook page, petition and protests held outside of Okehampton Hospital and County Hall in Exeter.

Okehampton Town Mayor Cllr Jan Goffey was pleased with the progression of the campaign.

She said: ‘We are delighted to see that MP Mel Stride has kept his promise to give our petition of over 3,000 signatures to Jeremy Hunt.

‘However, this is only one part of our campaign to save the Okehampton Hospital beds. I shall be spending the next few days compiling the submissions from various documents that people have researched and written over the past few weeks. These will be taken to Newcourt House and personally handed into the CCG before the deadline of the consultation in the first week of January.

‘Thanks to Elizabeth Passmore, Paul Callan, Alan Partridge and Lyn Evans for their work and to the parish clerks of our surrounding parishes who have also submitted letters.

 ‘There is still time for people to respond to the questionnaire which can be accessed online via www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/T85TCPT or there is a paper version of which I have copies. Contact me by phone if you would like a copy on 01837 659042.

‘Thank you to all the people who have responded so far and attended the consultations to make their view known. We shall continue the fight!’

West Devon Borough Councillor Mike Davies, who set up the ‘Save Our Beds’ Facebook page, said: ‘The mayor, consort and I delivered the petition to Westminster which has now been handed to Jeremy Hunt.

‘We appreciate that there is a tough battle ahead, but so far we are doing all that we can to save our hospital beds. We’d like to thank everyone from Okehampton and its surrounding areas for signing the petition.’

Devon County Councillor Kevin Ball added: ‘I’m delighted that Mel was able to represent the feelings of our community to Jeremy Hunt. I would like to remind everyone they have up to January 6 to respond to the consultation. Please do so, as this is our opportunity to make our feelings known to the CCG.’

The Your Future Care public consultation will run until January 6, 2017. Once it ends, a decision regarding which hospital beds to cut will be made.