North Devon District Hospital recognised as a key centre for seriously-injured patients.

NORTH Devon District Hospital (NDDH) has been officially recognised as a regional trauma unit for seriously-injured patients.

The emergency department at the Barnstaple hospital will play a key role in a Devon and Cornwall ‘hub and spoke’ model with hub Derriford Hospital in Plymouth designated as the major trauma centre.

The other units are Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Torbay Hospital and Royal Cornwall Hospital, in Truro.

The creation of a formal network means that patients will automatically be taken from the scene to the most-suitable hospital, either by road or air ambulance, according to the type and severity of their injuries.

In the run-up to designation as a trauma unit, NDDH changed a number of systems to strengthen its emergency care.

There is a new system of pre-alerts from the ambulance service, which triggers a series of call-outs to senior doctors from different specialities, including emergency medicine, intensive care, orthopaedics, general surgery and anaesthetics.

Procedures have also been streamlined to ensure that x-ray and other imaging techniques can be organised more quickly, speeding up diagnosis and treatment in Barnstaple, or triggering a rapid referral to Plymouth via the new channels.

Patients with serious injuries who are initially treated at NDDH will then be automatically accepted for immediate rapid transfer to Derriford for intensive, specialist, multi-disciplinary trauma care.

If the patient is transferred, the new role of trauma nurse co-ordinator at NDDH means they will be monitored closely and then brought back to Barnstaple as quickly as possible for their on-going care and rehabilitation.

Fionn Bellis, consultant in emergency medicine, who led the work in Barnstaple, said: “This is a huge step forward for patients who are seriously injured. They need the right help and they need it quickly, which is exactly what the trauma network offers.

“Usually the patients will still come to Barnstaple for their initial emergency treatment, but sometimes they will be able to be transferred directly to Plymouth, which is absolutely the right thing to do given the wider range of specialists there.”

The designation means that staff at NDDH are meeting high standards of care. When assessed by regional specialists, the hospital and the emergency department were found to meet all requirements, despite their relatively-small size.

Ms Bellis added: “The assessors were very complimentary when they came to visit – perhaps because there had been some scepticism that a small hospital like this could reach the standards for a trauma unit.

“But we certainly do, which is why we’re very confident of handling whatever is thrown at us, whether that means putting our own procedures into practice or transferring someone straight on to Derriford.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work from everyone involved here, but they were all determined to make sure the service for local people here was as good as it could possibly be.”