A HEATED debate broke out about the draft plan for healthcare in the county and the future of Ross-on-Wye community hospital.

Ross-on-Wye Town councillors disagreed on what the draft Sustainability and Transformation Plan for Herefordshire and Worcestershire could mean for the town.

The draft is available to read online and in the 84-page document one of the options considered for the future of healthcare in the county reads: "Some community hospitals may be able to operate as bedless, e.g. as a 'locality hub' for domiciliary based community services integrated with primary care."

The draft places the emphasis on providing care at home and explains how the system needs to change over the next five years, otherwise there will be a funding gap of £311m by the end of 2020/21 across the two counties.

Julian Utting is running in the Ross-on-Wye by-election on March 23 and collected 500 signatures opposing any cuts to beds at Ross Community Hospital.

A working party of councillors from Ross council had written a response to the draft plan expressing their concerns which said: "The Town Council reiterates therefore that while it supports more health services being delivered locally, it is wholly opposed to any reduction in beds in Ross Community Hospital."

But Cllr Nigel Gibbs said he was concerned that the response was selective in what it chose to highlight from the plan.

He said: "The report says that some community hospitals may be able to operate as bedless and continues to explain that. It doesn't say that the community hospitals will operate as bedless or even that any of the beds will be lost."

Frank Myers, board member for Wye Valley NHS Trust, said during the public participation section: "I have been disturbed about the publicity recently about the STP... I am speaking in a personal capacity, I have to stress that.

"I do have some knowledge of the goings-on. Selective quotations from the plan don't help at all."

And Cllr Phil Cutter said: "Let's all just leave it alone until we can find out what the procedures are going to be for the consultations."

But Cllr Caroline Utting said that the draft says savings of £5.9m to community beds are being looked at.

She said: "What we are saying is we would oppose cuts to beds at Ross Community Hospital. So whether they are considered or not it doesn't mean we shouldn't have an opinion on it."

Cllr Jane Roberts added: "The austerity of recent years is only the start. If ever there was a moment to stand up and say we value our community hospital and we are going to fight to retain the quality of healthcare in this town, now is the moment."

Six were in favour of sending the response and six were against. Chairman David Ravenscroft had the deciding vote and voted against sending it.