North Tawton resident called on Devon County Council last week to ask for its support in the campaign to reopen the hospital beds in Okehampton Hospital. 

At the North Tawton annual meeting, which saw dozens of residents attend, one member of the public asked Devon County Councillor James McInnes whether the county council would support the reopening of the hospital ward - a campaign Okehampton Town Council has already committed to support.

In response to the question, Cllr McInnes said: ‘The problem in adult social care is staff. You can physically open the building, but where do you get the staff? Despite the downturn in the economy we have never had so many people in employment so cottage hospitals may be the answer to the health crisis but it’s getting the staff.’

The Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has not confirmed that there are currently any plans to reopen the beds even though there is an ongoing campaign to get the ward re-opened by several Okehampton councillors, who are arguing that convalescing in a hospital closer to home would allow family members to visit more frequently and aid recovery. 

John Palmer, chief operating officer at the Royal Devon University Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: ‘We are continuing to develop our community services so that we can support and care for more people where they live. There is growing recognition that a lack of physical activity during hospital stays can have significant negative consequences for patients, especially in older people, which can lead to reduced functional ability and deconditioning, as well as the worsening of cognition.  

 ‘As well as it being the right thing to do for our patients, supporting people to receive care where they live means that our community hospitals can be used to accommodate specialty out-patient clinics, so that local people can more easily access the services they need.

 ‘At our Okehampton site, we currently have 23 specialties running clinics, including dermatology, dietetics, ear nose and throat, heart failure and sleep clinics.’

So far Okehampton Town Councillors have appealed to MP Mel Stride and Devon County Councillor Lois Samuel to ask for their support.

In January this year, Cllr Jan Goffey argued for a new push for the ward reopening following an announcement by the Government that it would provide 800 more ambulances including 100 specialist mental health vehicles and 5,000 more hospital beds as part of a £1 billion fund to support the NHS. 

Last month, North Tawton Town Council agreed to support Okehampton Town Council in the campaign for the reopening of the hospital beds.

Okehampton Hospital’s ward has been ‘temporarily closed’ since 2017 after the Northern, Eastern and Western Clinical Commissioning Group, which was responsible for the planning and commissioning of healthcare in the region, concluded that Okehampton’s medical centre would be able to deal with town’s hospital patients.

The hospital also used to house a full maternity unit but its closure means pregnant women must now give birth at RD&E or at home.