NDHT and the RD&E agree in principle to a new collaboration to maintain sustainability of clinical services in North Devon

29 May 2018

Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust (NDHT) and the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (RD&E) have reached agreement in principle on a new collaboration between the two organisations. The collaboration aims to support NDHT to address 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.

With the support of NHS Improvement (NHSI), the two organisations have agreed in principle that the RD&E will provide leadership and management support to NDHT for the next two years, with a dedicated senior management team based at each acute hospital site in Barnstaple and Exeter.

Subject to Board approval, the draft agreement proposes that Suzanne Tracey, currently Chief Executive at the RD&E, will become the Accountable Officer and Chief Executive of both organisations.

Roger French, NDHT Chair, had signalled his intention to retire from the Board and will do so on the 30 June. Roger has been with NDHT since 2011 and wanted to ensure there was a plan in place to secure the long-term future of services in northern Devon before announcing his decision to retire from his position. As part of the agreement, James Brent (currently the RD&E Chair), will be appointed the Chair of both trusts, although there will continue to be two separate Boards and separate statutory obligations.

The Collaborative Agreement requires the approval of both Trust Boards in early June and is then expected to commence from the 18 June 2018.

Andy Ibbs, interim chief executive at NDHT, said: “We have made no secret of the challenges we face as the most remote acute hospital in Devon and indeed one of the most remote acute hospitals in the country, most significantly our difficulty recruiting to our medical vacancies. 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.”

Commenting on the draft agreement, Suzanne Tracey said, “We have worked with our colleagues in NDHT for a number of years on a collaborative basis to sustain clinical services and to help tackle the challenges it has 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.

“Despite the issues faced by NDHT, I know that the staff are incredibly hard-working, dedicated and always put patients first. I am looking forward to working with them even more closely going forward. Staff often have the best insights and ideas on what would work best for their patients and I want to listen to their views and to support them to make improvements.”

Jennifer Howells, Regional Director South West, NHS Improvement and NHS England said:  “This new agreement demonstrates the commitment and hard work by the leadership teams of both trusts who have been determined to do the right thing for the community of northern Devon. 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.”

NHSI and the Devon Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) will maintain oversight of the collaboration arrangements. The agreement also sets out that an options appraisal will be undertaken during this period to look at the longer-term solutions to the challenges faced by NDHT.

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



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