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Devon hospital trusts to work more closely with merged leadership

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Nurses in Devon face uncertainty over the impact of a new “collaboration” between two of the county’s main acute service providers.

Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust and the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust have agreed in principle to an arrangement that will see a dedicated senior management team based at each acute hospital site in Barnstaple and Exeter.

“We have made no secret of the challenges we face as the most remote acute hospital in Devon”

Andy Ibbs

But there is no official word yet on what will happen to the most senior nursing roles at the trusts or how the new arrangement will affect nurses on the frontline.

A spokesman for Royal Devon and Exeter said no decision had yet been taken on the director of nursing roles. At present Em Wilkinson-Brice is chief nurse there, while Darryn Allcorn is director of nursing at Northern Devon.

The new deal is a response to ongoing difficulties at latter. In January 2018 the Care Quality Commission rated Northern Devon as “requires improvement”.

A month earlier the trust was forced to pay £20m to the family of a girl with cerebral palsy following mistakes during her birth at North Devon District Hospital.

The Collaborative Agreement needs the approval of both trust boards in early June and is then expected to start on the 18 June.

If both boards approve the draft agreement, Suzanne Tracey, currently chief executive at the Royal Devon and Exeter, will become the accountable officer and chief executive of both organisations.

Ms Tracey said the two trusts had worked together for a number of years to tackle “challenges” that Northern Devon had faced.

“We now need to do more and I am pleased that, following our very positive discussions, we are in a position to ensure that the health needs of the population in northern Devon are not disadvantaged compared to the wider population in Devon,” she said.

Northern Devon’s previous chief executive, Dr Alison Diamond, retired in March this year.

Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust

North Devon District Hospital

Source: Roger A Smith

North Devon District Hospital

Andy Ibbs, trust’s interim chief executive, said: “We have made no secret of the challenges we face as the most remote acute hospital in Devon and one of the most remove acute hospitals in the country.”

The most serious problem had been recruiting staff to fill medical vacancies, noted Mr Ibbs.

“We have worked closely with the RD&E for a number of years to try to address the difficulties we face and are very positive about this agreement, which will formalise this support,” he said.

Roger French, Northern Devon’s chair, who has been with the trust since 2011, will retire from the board at the end of June, as will Judy Jones, one of its non-executive directors.

Meanwhile, James Brent, currently the chair of Royal Devon and Exeter, will be appointed chair of both trusts. However, for now, both providers will retain separate boards and have their own separate statutory obligations.

The regulator NHS Improvement and the local Devon Sustainability and Transformation Partnership will maintain oversight of the collaboration arrangements.


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