Non-urgent outpatient appointments in North Devon will be postponed to help NHS staff deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust has made the decision in order to free up essential staff to help care for patients with Covid-19.

All non-urgent outpatient appointments from Tuesday, April 14 have been postponed. However, emergency operations and admissions, cancer treatment and clinically urgent work will still go ahead.

Patients with an outpatient appointment coming up over the next few weeks will be contacted to advise them of next steps, as will patients who have not yet had an appointment confirmed, but who are on a waiting list.

Jill Canning, deputy chief operating officer at Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “It is really important that we take these steps to protect our patients and staff.

“Please be assured that our senior clinicians are reviewing every single patient’s case to make the recommendation that is right for their individual circumstances.

“We know people may be worried at this decision. The trust’s patient admin team are working as fast as possible to alert patients who have appointments over the next few days and weeks.

“Thank you to all our patients for your understanding during this challenging time.”

The trust said all patients affected by this are being clinically reviewed by the appropriate senior clinicians. They are looking at each patient on a case-by-case basis to make a clinical recommendation.

Some appointments may be replaced with a telephone consultation or video consultation, or it may be deferred for a period of time that is deemed safe by the clinician.

Patients with appointments booked over the coming weeks will be contacted by the trust to advise them of any changes. As phone lines are very busy, the trust has asked that patients do not contact them unless you are expecting a face-to-face appointment and have not heard from them at least 48 hours before your appointment.

If a patient feels their health is deteriorating, they are advised get in contact with the relevant speciality via the number on their appointment letter or via the hospital switchboard 01271 322 577.