Long-awaited results of the STP review say key acute services will remain at North Devon District Hospital

Stroke, A and E and maternity services will remain at North Devon District Hospital.

The long-awaited results were announced today (Tuesday) of the STP review of Devon's acute health services.

Around-the-clock A and E would remain in Barnstaple, Exeter, Plymouth and Torquay, as well as consultant-led maternity services and first-line treatment for strokes.

There had been fears in North Devon that key services would be cut, leading to loss of life if patients had to travel to Exeter or Plymouth.

READ MORE: 'We have won the first battle' say North Devon health campaigners

Barnstaple will keep emergency stroke care. The strategy produced by clinicians working on the Sustainability and Transformation Plan will see the development of 'hyperacute stroke units' at Exeter and Plymouth.

Following emergency treatment patients will receive intensive stroke treatments at these units before either returning home or going back to their local hospital.

Maternity, neonatal and paediatric inpatient services will be retained at all four main hospitals.

Dr Alison Diamond, chief executive of Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, said: "A tremendous amount of work has gone into the acute services review, bringing together doctors, nurses, health professionals, managers and patient representatives from across Devon.

"Clinicians from this trust have been heavily involved and I want to thank them for their time, expertise and contribution to these recommendations - which reinforce that essential services are needed in North Devon."

Today's statement also talked about 'closer working between hospitals to improve services'.

The review has been a joint effort between NEW Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and regional health trusts, including Northern Devon Healthcare Trust.

The various health trusts want their clinical teams to work closer together and the announcement refers to 'shared recruitment' and 'developing new workforce solutions'.

It is not yet clear if this will affect staffing numbers at all.

The STP review is one of several taking place across the UK and came about because it was said acute hospital services were likely to become unsustainable in the future due to difficulties recruiting staff, increasing demand for services and the difficulty meeting national standards.

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Dr Phil Hughes, who led the review and is a medical director and consultant radiologist at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, said: "The recommendations will see us bringing services closer together - networking our clinical teams, sharing recruitment and developing new workforce solutions.

"For example, we may have specialists who are based in one particular hospital who could support other sites and enhance services - giving a Devon-wide focus.

"These recommendations will not only save lives, but will also improve the quality of life after an emergency, such as a stroke, for many people too. This is great news for patients and the local NHS in Devon."

These recommendations are the first stage in the review. Now they will be looked at in detail to ensure they can be put into practice.

If the final proposals result in 'significant changes', a public consultation will be held.

Dr Hughes added: "The NHS is still facing an unprecedented challenge and the recommendations do not, at this stage, solve all of the problems we face.

"Over the coming months we'll be talking to local communities about any specific proposals but for now we are publishing the results of the clinical review so that the public can be assured that this represents the clinical view of how acute services be secured in Devon."

No service reduction was justified

North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones said: "From the start of the STP process I have told NHS England that no reduction in these services at Barnstaple would be acceptable or clinically justified, and the outcome of this review concludes exactly that.

"While I welcome the outcome of this review, it says there is a challenge now to ensure we have the necessary staffing and clinical expertise in Barnstaple to deliver these services sustainably. I have today spoken to the chief executive of Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust and made clear that I want to be kept informed of progress in this regard.

"I also thanked her for the work that has been done and for the outcome as far as Barnstaple is concerned."

'An excellent result'

Ian Williams of Save Our Hospital Services said: "An excellent initial result and vindication of the SOHS team in establishing the isolation issue for North Devon.

"As with all these points, the devil will be in the detail. Many of the cuts have already been implemented. GPs not referring to hospitals if at all possible, closure of community hospitals and the very much unproven Care at Home principle that has been claimed to be a success.

"The county council are not geared up or funded to cover the social aspects and where does clinical care and monitoring fit in? We have won the first battle but the new proposals rely on additional doctors being available to supplement our local ones."