Workforce and Training


Managers brought in to run services in North Devon Healthcare Trust

Managers at Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (RD&E) will take over the running of North Devon Healthcare Trust (NDHT) for two years in a move aimed to provide “leadership and management support” to the struggling trust.

The agreement between the two aims to help the NDHT by addressing the challenges it faces in “continuing to provide acute services and to ensure that the health needs of the population of northern Devon continue to be met.”

The NDHT — which was said to ‘require improvement’ after a CQC inspection late last year — will receive management support from RD&E, with a dedicated senior management team based at each acute hospital site in Barnstaple and Exeter.

Current RD&E chair James Brent will be appointed chair of both trusts, replacing NDHT chair Roger French, who is retiring from the board on 30 June. Suzanne Tracey, chief executive at RD&E, will become the accountable officer and chief executive of both organisations. There will continue to be two separate boards and statutory.

Yesterday, Suzanne Tracey told BBC Radio Devon that the plans were not a merger. “We are at capacity at the RD&E, so it's not immediately obvious how that could happen.

"This is much more about how we stabilise service and ensure it is properly staffed to deliver safe care," she added.

Commenting on the draft agreement, Tracey said that colleagues in the two trusts had worked together for a number of years to sustain clinical services and to help tackle the challenges it has faced.

“We now need to do more and I am pleased that 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 commented.

‘No secret’ of challenges faced

Andy Ibbs, interim chief executive at NDHT said the trust have made “no secret” of the challenges in the most acute hospital in Devon, adding: “Our staff have been amazing in how they have continuously risen to the challenges with their hard work and innovations, but we now need additional support.

“We have worked closely with the RD&E for a number of years to try to address the difficulties we face and we are very positive about this agreement, which will formalise this support to help ensure people in northern Devon receive the best possible clinical care.”

After meeting with board members, North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones said the collaboration was done to ensure acute services could continue to be delivered in Barnstaple.

He noted: “Last year, the NHS England review concluded rightly that all services should be retained at the NDHT?, but set the challenge of doing so in a sustainable way. This new arrangement does just that, and means we can share resources and expertise to our long-term advantage.”

Regional director of NHS Improvement and NHS England south west, Jennifer Howells, said the agreement “demonstrates the commitment” of leadership teams of both trusts, adding: “Working with the RD&E through this agreement, and with ongoing support from NHS Improvement, I am confident that NDHT will have the best possible support to make the necessary, sustainable improvements that will enable them to provide the quality of services patients expect from the NHS.”

Judy Jones, non-executive director at NDHT, has also confirmed that she will be stepping down from the board at the end of June.

The move still has to be approved by both trusts in early June. If approved, the new arrangement will come into effect on 18 June.

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Image credit: Dominic Lipinksi 


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