Nationally acclaimed health campaigners speak to Devon

This is aan official press release from Save Our Hospital Services:

On 10 December, health campaigning group Save Our Hospital Services (SOHS) held a webinar, inviting the public to listen in to both local and national campaigners who are deeply concerned about the NHS. SOHS was founded in north Devon in 2016 but have spread their work further across the county over the years and are currently supporting the campaign in Teignmouth to keep that hospital open. Speakers from south Devon, from Dartmouth and Teignmouth itself, added their voices to those of national speakers.

The first national speaker was Dr Louise Irvine. Louise led the successful campaign to save Lewisham Hospital back in 2013. She is chair of the nationwide organisation Health Campaigns Together and sits on the council of the British Medical Association. She stood against then secretary of state for health Jeremy Hunt in the general elections of 2015 and 2017.

The second national speaker was Dr Bob Gill, who began campaigning when his own local hospital lost acute services. His research into the background of scandals like PFI (private finance initiative) funding led to the documentary film The Great NHS Heist, dedicated to spreading knowledge of how our NHS is being damaged by privatisation and what the public can do to save it.

SOHS’s Dave Clinch, who chaired the webinar, told us: “It’s important to recognise how many doctors are deeply concerned by what is happening. We also know it isn’t just hospitals that are at risk. GPs are being undermined too. The campaigning work of Dr Irvine and Dr Gill is testament to their conviction that we, the public, can change things.”

At local level, retired nurse Sue Matthews explained how the NHS in Devon has historically been unfairly funded by comparison with the rest of the country. She talked about how recent savings demands have negatively impacted on our services and how the new long-term plan for Devon’s healthcare aims to make even more savings (£400m plus over the next four years), “by increasing the dependence on self-care and reducing access to local services”. As a result, she said:

“Despite poor public transport links, the often elderly, socially and economically challenged communities of Devon are being required to take a greater responsibility for their care at personal cost and risk, without the professional support and care required for the future.” She concluded: “We need to challenge the assumption that Devon deserves less than any other part of the country.”

Ray Ashman, SOHS’s vice chair, also commented on the long-term plan: “There can be no doubt, none whatsoever, that this will bring more suffering for patients. And do you know what they had the audacity to call it? ‘Better for You, Better for Devon.’ Let me tell you straight, it is not better for you and it is definitely not better for Devon. This cannot go on.” He went on to praise ‘Private Matters’, a crowd-funded film made by campaigner Deborah Harrington, also shown at the webinar:

“Frightening facts and statistics are revealed, going at least back to Labour under Tony Blair as well as the skulduggery of more recent Tory administrations. But we also showed our own videos about bed closures in Devon with some startling statistics.”

To watch the webinar online visit our Facebook page:, and visit our Facebook page or e-mail us at to find out what you can do to help.