Devon 'red line' protests over community hospital cuts

Holsworthy "red line" protest
Image caption Health bosses say the proposals are necessary to meet the rising demand, but protesters fear it will "devastate" services

Protesters have formed human "red lines" outside community hospitals in Devon over proposed cuts.

At least 10 hospitals across the county have been earmarked for closure, or a reduction in beds or services.

The clinical commissioning group (CCG) overseeing the changes, said its aim was to ensure access to "consistently excellent care".

But angry demonstrators said the cuts would "devastate" services and should not go ahead.

Save Our Hospital Services organisers said April Fools Day was chosen to protest against the plans because the threat was "no joke".

Financial pressure

Protests have taken place in Ilfracombe, Torrington, Bideford, Ottery, Sidmouth, Seaton, Barnstaple, Torbay, South Molton and Exeter.

A similar protest took place on Friday in Holsworthy, where overnight services have been temporarily closed due to staff shortages.

The proposals are part of NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group's "Sustainability and Transformation Plan" (STP), which opponents claim will cut more than £500m from health spending in the county.

Image caption Overnight hospital services in Holsworthy were "temporarily" cut on Friday due to staff shortages

"The STP will devastate the services we all depend on and must be stopped," protester Di Fuller said.

"At a time of black and red alerts with hospitals across Devon in crisis, only a fool can think about introducing the STP."

Tim Burke, a GP and CCG chair, said while the NHS wholeheartedly supported "open and frank" debate, protesters should not prevent access to hospitals for patients, staff and visitors.

"We understand that people are passionate and rightly proud of the NHS and want to express their views," he said.

Dr Burke said services were under severe financial pressure and to ensure everyone had access to consistently-excellent care - whether from a hospital or community-based services - it was essential the NHS and local communities "work together to identify how best to meet rising demand".

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