Now stroke, maternity and A&E services in North Devon have been saved, what happens next? We spoke to medical director George Thomson to find out...

The medical director in North Devon says he is confident the transformation ahead is ‘right for the people of North Devon’.

George Thomson said the outcome of the acute services review was that ‘absolutely nothing here at North Devon District Hospital is closing’.

There had been fears services such as stroke, maternity and A&E would be lost from North Devon, but Mr Thomson said he hoped the latest outcome had been a reassurance to people.

READ MORE: Health review says stroke, A&E and maternity services will stay in Barnstaple

North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple.North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple.

He praised the ‘tremendous’ amount of time put in by clinicians, including doctors, nurses, health professionals and managers, as well as analysts and accountants.

“I think the fact this clinician-led review came first, is why we have had such a positive outcome,” he said.

“I absolutely understand how much of a concern this must have been and I have tried to reassure people as best as I was able.”

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North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple.North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple.

Mr Thomson said the announcement had been expected after the county council election in May, but the snap General Election had delayed things due to purdah.

The next challenge will be to look at a ‘transformation’ of staffing – including phasing in a seven-day week across acute hospitals in Devon.

As part of this, Mr Thomson said he wanted to see clinicians working to the ‘top end’ of their professional registration.

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North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple.North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple.

This could include, for example, looking at prescribing pharmacists joining ward rounds with consultants, freeing up time for junior doctors to work across units.

“It is a fact we don’t have enough doctors in the NHS in England,” said Mr Thomson.

“But there are lots of things pharmacist and nurses can do, that traditionally a junior doctor would do, such as giving IV antibiotics and prescribing drugs on the ward.

“It’s about using our existing workforce in a smarter way so that we can continue to deliver a high-quality service.”

READ MORE: North Devon patients ‘will get high quality care’ for years to come, says top hospital doctor

The acute services review, however, does not solve all of the problems faced across Devon, and the recommendations will need to be reviewed in more details.

Mr Thomson said he ‘did not underestimate’ the hard work ahead, and while costs still need to be saved, he confirmed there would be no staffing cuts.

There will, however, be more shared clinicians across Devon sites, following in the footsteps of services such as ENT and cardiology.

READ MORE: Prime Minister says local input ‘crucial’ to review of services at North Devon District Hospital

Mr Thomson said the transformational process would begin immediately, and would be ‘ongoing’, with no set timescale.

“Medicine is always changing and I don’t think the transformation will ever be complete,” he added.

“But this is right for the people of North Devon, and the whole population of Devon, and I can’t thank everyone enough who has been involved.”