North Devon kidney patients have been urged to use the dialysis unit at Holsworthy or lose it.

The unit at Holsworthy Industrial Estate is run by Renal Services but is available to NHS patients - and yet many dialysis patients still travel all the way to Exeter or Barnstaple three times a week.

Unit manager Sue Beer told the Gazette transferring their dialysis treatment to Holsworthy could not be simpler for patients - they just need to inform their consultants of their wishes.

NHS England and NHS Improvement said the unit uses reverse osmosis dialysis and patients who wished to transfer would have to discuss it with their consultant to ensure they would be receiving the correct treatment.

But Sue has warned that if the unit does not get more patients it could become unsustainable and could have to close.

She said transferring was a simple process but patients could still keep their own consultant.

The unit opened in November 2017 and ironically in 2000 there was a fundraising drive by the community and Holsworthy Hospital League of Friends to build a dialysis unit.

Although the money was raised the then primary care trust would not support the cost to run it.

Sue said: "People wanted it here. It's about getting the word out there and telling patients that we are here.

"We know there are patients that travel to Exeter or Barnstaple but patients should not have to spend their day travelling to a place to dialyse, you should not have to travel more than 30 minutes.

"But there's only so much we can do without an uptake - use it or lose it basically."

It is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but Sue said it could open throughout the week and offer 'twilight' shifts if there were enough patients.

She added: "I know people get frightened about privatisation but there's nothing like that, we work alongside the NHS. We are all NHS-trained nurses and if you come to us you will get the same treatment, quality and care that you will get on the NHS."

Esther Fry from Holsworthy started coming to the unit four months ago. She said: "I used to go to Exeter and that's an all-day job. The travelling was so tiring, I did not realise how tiring it was until I came here.

"It's lovely here, the staff are absolutely wonderful."