North Devon’s MP has said a new collaboration between Exeter and North Devon’s healthcare trusts could increase the services available in Barnstaple.

Peter Heaton-Jones released a statement reacting to the news Northern Devon Healthcare Trust (NDHT) and Royal Devon and Exeter (RD&E) will be working in collaboration.

If agreed by both trust boards, Exeter’s chief executive and chairman will take over the running of NDHT as well.

Mr Heaton-Jones said: “Last week I met the acting chief executive of the Northern Devon Healthcare Trust, Andy Ibbs, and the board chairman, Roger French, to discuss these new arrangements.

“I sought and received assurances that the collaboration has a single purpose: to ensure that all acute services can continue to be delivered in Barnstaple.

“Last year, the NHS England review concluded rightly that all services should be retained at the NDDH, but set the challenge of doing so in a sustainable way.

“This new arrangement does just that, and means we can share resources and expertise to our long-term advantage.

“In fact, I have been told that some procedures currently not available in Barnstaple may be able to be delivered here in future as a result of this collaboration..

“The local community is passionate about our hospital, and I will soon be meeting the new chief executive to hear more about the collaboration and how it will safeguard the future delivery of services in Barnstaple.”

Hospital campaigners have welcomed the move, and a spokesman for Save Our Hospital Services said the group hoped the new management would ensure the retention of acute services in North Devon.

As part of the draft agreement, a senior management team will be based at both North Devon and Exeter hospitals, and an appraisal will look into a long-term solution.

However, Devon County Councillor Brian Greenslade, said he felt the move could cause concern for those already worries about a loss of services in North Devon.

He said: “For the people of North Devon the critical thing is to protect the delivery of acute services provided in the NDDH.

“This is my key objective and where I will focus my scrutiny attention.

“I will also be probing to see whether this proposed collaboration gives the opportunity to repatriate some acute services from the RDE to Barnstaple.

“I also believe with the increasing population in North Devon there is a case now to look at growing the facilities at the NDDH.

“We have been very lucky to have such a good hospital in North Devon with such dedicated staff.

“Let us remember that had it not been for former MP Jeremy Thorpe and the 50,000 signature he presented to Parliament, we probably would have not had this facility in our community.”

Jennifer Howells, regional director South West for NHS Improvement and NHS England, said the two trusts were ‘determined to do the right thing’ for the community.

She added: “Working with the RD&E through this agreement, and with ongoing support from NHS Improvement, I am confident that NDHT will have the best possible support to make the necessary, sustainable improvements that will enable them to provide the quality of services patients expect from the NHS.”