NHS organisations in Devon have been working closely together to confront the significant challenges we all face in delivering clinical and financially sustainable care for the people of Devon. We are continuing to develop our partnerships, working in a way that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.
The work carried out together through the Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) on the acute services review confirmed that our four acute hospitals in Exeter, Barnstaple, Plymouth and Torquay are central to how we manage NHS services across Devon. More recently, we have been developing our approach to providing clinical services in a more collaborative way, including supporting one another by providing mutual clinical support, which has proved invaluable in addressing short-term service challenges due to medical staffing problems.
Despite this stronger collaboration, as a system we continue to face significant challenges. In particular, there is a requirement for leadership support for our most remote acute hospital – North Devon District Hospital – to help it address the issues it faces in continuing to provide acute services.
With the support of NHS Improvement, Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust and the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust are exploring options to secure the long-term clinical sustainability of acute services in North Devon. Discussions between NHS Improvement and the Boards of both Trusts have now begun on what the nature of the management and leadership support will be and over what time period. This is a welcome development that fits with the ever stronger partnerships we have been engaged in over the last few years. Furthermore, it is the right thing to consider for the people and communities we both serve.
Dr Rob Dyer, who is the lead Medical Director for Devon, said this will build on the benefits of Devon’s networked approach to clinical services, which was launched in October 2017.
He explained: “We have been operating a mutual clinical support arrangement across our four main Devon hospitals for six months. It has proved invaluable in addressing any short-term service challenges due to medical staffing problems which otherwise would have resulted in delays or reduced quality of care for our patients.
“RD&E will support NDHT to ensure that patients are able to continue accessing existing and new services as close to home as possible. This will be achieved by ensuring that facilities continue to be fully operational at North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple, our most remote acute hospital in Devon.
“We have been clear that our four acute hospitals in Exeter, Barnstaple, Plymouth and Torquay are central to how we manage NHS services across Devon.”
As these discussions progress, we will keep the both staff and the public up to date on developments. Our aim is to have an agreed way forward in place from May 2018.
At the end of March 2018, Dr Alison Diamond will retire from her position as chief executive at NDHT. To ensure continuity during this period, Andy Ibbs, director of operations and strategy, will take up a role as interim chief executive whilst these arrangements are finalised.