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Planning for winter pressures

Beds at two community hospitals could be temporarily moved to Newton Abbot community hospital if there is a significant rise in the number of patients being admitted this winter.

Last winter, nine beds at Bovey Tracey community hospital were relocated to Newton Abbot for just over three weeks.

This came after Torbay Hospital had opened 21 more beds and brought in extra staff to cope with the influx of patients, many of them older people with complex health problems.

When the pressures lessened, the beds were returned to Bovey Tracey at the end of January, as agreed.

Because this emergency decision proved successful in ensuring patients received the highest possible level of care, plans have been drawn up to move the Bovey Tracey beds and those at 10-bed Ashburton & Buckfastleigh community hospital to Newton Abbot if winter pressures mount again.

The contingency plan has been welcomed by Dr Mike Haugh, urgent care lead at South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group, which is responsible for the majority of healthcare in the area.

He said: “By moving the Bovey Tracey beds temporarily last year, we were able to open five more beds at Newton Abbot because we could really make the most of the staff we had available.

“Another advantage was that medical cover by a doctor is provided all day at Newton Abbot, as well as there being access to extra facilities such as x-ray.

“All of this means that patients get greater intensive care while they are ill, and they can then be discharged at the right time – making the bed available again.

“When the beds were moved from Bovey Tracey last year, it was a reaction to a difficult situation, and we apologised for the lack of advance notice.

“We want to avoid any suddenness again, which is why we’re making plans now. We also want to hear people’s comments on this plan, while it is still being drawn up.”

Comments can be made on the CCG website here or by phone (01803 652590). The closing date is Thursday 15 October.