Trust to work with Axminster League of Friends over £300,000 offer to help recruit extra nurses to resolve staffing and patient safety issues

Axminster-new-main-entranceInpatient services will be temporarily transferred to Seaton in the meantime

The board of the Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust has agreed to work with Axminster Hospital League of Friends over its £300,000 offer to help recruit extra nurses to resolve significant staffing and patient safety concerns.

The Trust and League of Friends have agreed to immediately take the next steps to use the £300,000 to reinstate inpatient beds at Axminster Community Hospital.

Due to the immediate issues around staffing and safety at Axminster and Seaton hospitals and the time required to recruit extra nurses, the board felt it had no option but to temporarily merge inpatient services into one 18-bedded unit at Seaton in order to resolve the risks.

The decision, made at an extraordinary board meeting today (Wednesday), follows a month-long public consultation over whether the proposed transfer to Seaton should take place or other options should be considered instead.

Roger French, Trust chairman, said: “I would like to thank all the people who put forward their views and suggestions as part of the consultation.

“The board members were very clear about the strength of feeling among the local community.

“It was through this process that we were presented with the very generous offer by the League of Friends to help solve the issues over a short-term period.

“We are extremely grateful to the League of Friends and will look to work with them straight away to find a solution to bridge the gap between the imminent temporary transfer to Seaton and the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s long-term decision on the future of local services.”

The urgent staffing risks centre on having rotas where there is only one registered nurse working on their own as the sole professional looking after up to 10 patients, an issue which was highlighted as a concern by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) following its inspection of the Trust in July 2014.

The Trust has often been on the cusp of not being able to sustain the nursing rota at Axminster and Seaton and is concerned about an over-reliance on agency staff.

Mr French said: “This was an extremely difficult decision for the board and we recognise it will be met with disappointment by many people in and around Axminster.

“The board agreed unanimously that, due to the urgent staffing and patient safety issues we are facing right now, we simply couldn’t sit back and do nothing.

“An independent review of staffing and safety issues at Axminster, Seaton and other community hospitals – published this week – supported the Trust’s concerns and reaffirmed that we weren’t compliant with some national guidelines.

“We looked very closely at the merits of both sites to house inpatient services on a temporarily basis and, although it was a tough call, Seaton was chosen due to its higher levels of illness and dependency of patients, larger catchment area, greater staffing resilience and lesser reliance on agency nurses.

“These are more important when considering the current, well-publicised pressure on the health system as a whole.

“Axminster Hospital will remain open for all its other outpatient clinics and services and this temporary decision over the beds will be completely reversible pending the outcome of the CCG’s wider consultation on the future of community services.”


Posted in News.

Last updated: March 6, 2018


  1. This was a poorly thought out decision. The consultation process was rushed and information not circulated until the last minute. It looked as if the 2 non exec directors who did not support the decision were truly surprised by the decision. The decision was made with a majority of 5 directors(4 exec directors+1 non exec) to 2 directors (both non exec). The offer of £300,000 by the Axminster LoF was made subject to beds remaining in Axminster. Everyone in the room new that and that has been quite clear for weeks. This is contrary to the announcement above.
    We have tried in Axminster to offer extra help in the form of money and extra nurses over the last few weeks but this has been ignored because we cannot make this a long term offer at the present time. If the directors really wanted to have helped their nurses in Axminster over the last few weeks they would have taken up this offer on a temporary basis, while we waited for the CCG to make their long term decision. Any help and support at the present time should have been accepted with open arms. The NDHT directors will regret the decision they made today.

    • Dear James

      The issue led to great debate at the Board meeting, which was heard by those members of the public in attendance. It was a difficult decision, which is demonstrated by the fact the final option was not unanimously agreed by all Board members.

      However the difficulties we face in maintaining a safe inpatient service are such that, unfortunately, a decision was needed yesterday which addressed these concerns.

      As it has made clear in its announcement following the meeting, the Trust hopes to pursue the offer of £300,000 with the League of Friends to enable us to reinstate beds at Axminster.

      I am sorry you are disappointed by the decision.

      Thank you for your input into the consultation. We really valued the effort you put into understanding the issues at hand.

      Kind regards

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