Health authorities say they will be working closer together to tackle the ‘challenge’ of keeping acute services at North Devon District Hospital.

In a joint statement today (Tuesday) Northern Devon Healthcare Trust and Royal Devon and Exeter Trust said they would be working together to ensure facilities at the hospital continued to be ‘fully operational’.

There are as yet no specific details as to whether this will mean any change to existing services.

There is a question mark over who will have the long term management of North Devon when chief executive Dr Alison Diamond retires at the end of this month.

The statement said there was a requirement ‘for leadership support’ to help the hospital address the issues it faced in providing acute services.

It said during this period Andy Ibbs, the trust director of operations and strategy would take on the role of interim chief executive.

The trusts said NHS organisations in Devon had been working closely together to deal with ‘significant challenges’ in delivering clinical and financially sustainable care across the county.

Recent developments have included a more joined up delivery of services at acute hospitals in Barnstaple, Exeter, Plymouth and Torquay.

The trusts say there has been more collaboration between them, including supporting one another by providing mutual clinical support, which has proved invaluable in addressing short-term service challenges due to medical staffing problems.

Dr Rob Dyer, lead medical director for Devon, said the closer working would ‘build on the benefits of Devon’s networked approach to clinical services’.

He added: “We have been operating a mutual clinical support arrangement across our four main Devon hospitals for six months.

“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.”

Dr Dyer said they would keep staff and public up to date on developments and hoped to have an agreed way forward in place by May.