North Devon told it has four months to fight for its maternity unit and other acute services

North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones says he will fight for hospital services in North Devon. Picture: ContributedNorth Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones says he will fight for hospital services in North Devon. Picture: Contributed

North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones has been warned that ‘babies could be born on the link road’ if proposed cuts to acute hospital services get the go ahead.

Fielding questions at a meeting in Barnstaple Guildhall tonight (Monday), Mr Heaton-Jones said North Devon had four months to fight for its maternity unit.

He said a final version of the Wider Devon Sustainability and Transformation (STP) plan – an NHS blueprint to re-model healthcare services in the county – is expected to be published in January or February next year.

Speaking at tonight’s Barnstaple Town Council meeting, Mr Heaton-Jones said: “We have four months to get our message across; we all need to come together – the councils and the community.

“We need to fight what are on paper absolutely unacceptable proposals. The NHS needs to know that it is going to have a fight on its hands and we are going to lead that fight.

“We can’t put up with cuts to acute services at North Devon District Hospital (NDDH).”

The draft STP suggests that acute services at NDDH such as paediatrics, maternity, neonatology, cardiovascular and stroke services could move to Plymouth and Exeter.

Mr Heaton-Jones said: “I have seen the draft document and I am told that it is a work in progress. However, I don’t like it one bit.

“On page 40 it suggests that Devon might only need two maternity units in the whole county. That is not acceptable – plain and simple.

“This is not a party policy thing; it’s about the NHS doing an internal review looking at spreadsheets and maps thinking they can come up with a formula for our healthcare.

“I have no faith in the process; it’s flawed from the beginning because it’s a desk process – I’m more concerned about what it doesn’t say than what it does say.”

The MP referred to a ‘frank exchange of views’ with other Devon MPs, the health minister and senior NHS managers at an urgent meeting in Whitehall last week.

“We made it clear that there were things in the document that we did not like,” he said.

“It was quite clear that they [NHS managers] had no idea of travelling distances between Lynton and Lynmouth and Exeter; they don’t accept that there is a huge swathe of the North Devon coast that without a car cannot get to Exeter in a reasonable time. I suggested they look at a road atlas.”

Mr Heaton-Jones was urged to campaign for a ‘properly-funded NHS’ but he said NHS England had asked for eight billion pounds and the Government had actually increased it to £10billion.

“We need to tell them how to spend it so they don’t prejudice us in North Devon,” he argued.

“If no changes are made the entire region will face a black hole of half-a-billion-pounds in about three years time. It’s not just underfunding but a lack of sustainability in the way services are delivered.

“North Devon has been underfunded for too long and it’s something we won’t put up with any longer; and won’t put up with the suggestion that we can do with fewer acute services in North Devon.”