Plans to merge North Devon and Exeter health trusts move forward

North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple.

North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple. - Credit: Archant

Plans for North Devon and Exeter health trusts to merge together have taken a step closer after being given the go ahead to continue by NHS bosses. 

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) has approved a strategic case document which sets out how both trusts propose to become a single integrated organisation. 

It means Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust (NDHT) and the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (RD&E) can continue the process, with an integrated business case being the next step. 

This would describe in more detail how the two organisations become a single integrated organisation working across northern and eastern Devon for the benefit of both communities. 

Suzanne Tracey, chief executive of both trusts, said: “This is a really exciting and important milestone to have reached that now paves the way for moving to the next more-detailed assessment on how we now bring the two organisations together. 

“From the outset, the partnership between NDHT and the RD&E has been focused on benefitting patients and staff across northern and eastern Devon.  

“Both trusts face many of the same challenges – ensuring we have enough staff, responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, managing our waiting lists and transforming services.  

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“We have already made progress on many of these areas by working together through enhanced collaboration. However, there is growing evidence that we can be even more successful and resilient if we come together as a single organisation to meet these challenges.” 

The go-ahead from the NHS regulators marks the start of a programme of work to plan how the organisations integrate, with an aim to become a single organisation from April 2022.  

This will tie in with other areas of work, including the investment for North Devon District Hospital from the Government which proposes a rebuild of the hospital. 

Plus there are hopes to create a common digital electronic patient record across NDHT and RD&E, and work is underway to develop a shared clinical strategy across the SEND network (Southern, Eastern and Northern Devon). 

The trusts have said they will provide regular updates and there will be opportunities for interested stakeholders to be involved in this process. 

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