700-word response says there are ‘no red lines’ to reviewing services but ‘will not add to speculation’

Healthcare bosses have responded to fears for the future of A&E and other services at North Devon District Hospital.

In an open letter, Northern Devon Healthcare Trust chief executive Dr Alison Diamond said the media coverage had been met with 'surprise and worry' among local people and hospital staff.

But she said there were 'no red lines' to the review of services and all options would be considered.

She also said there was 'no new information' in the reports, which were based on the Case for Change document published by the Success Regime of health organisations to review the whole health and care system in Northern, Eastern and Western Devon.

On Tuesday health campaigners, Save The Irreplaceable Torrington Community Hospital (STITCH) group, released a statement claiming the A&E department at NDDH was at risk.

But in response to queries why the trust had neither confirmed nor denied rumours about the potential loss of services, Dr Diamond said: "After the Success Regime was launched last year, it was made clear that there would be no 'red lines' and all options would be considered across Northern, Eastern and Western Devon.

"With this in mind, and with the range of possible options to address Devon's challenges due to be announced and discussed in the coming months, there will inevitably be a lot of speculation and debate - local people are understandably very attached to their local NHS.

"We have seen a huge amount of public support for services at NDDH over the past 48 hours, which the trust welcomes.

"However, until we have gone through a proper process of analysis and consideration - including more formal engagement with patients and public - it would simply not be right to add to this speculation."

She concluded by saying there would be changes to services across the whole county, not just at NDDH, and they were all working together to get the best possible outcome for the people of Devon.

You can read Dr Diamond's full letter below:

There has been a lot of TV, radio and newspaper coverage over the past 48 hours about the future of key NHS services in North Devon.

The coverage has focused on concerns among campaigners about the future of A&E, maternity, stroke and paediatric services at North Devon District Hospital.

We're very aware - through many emails, phone calls, Facebook and Twitter posts and more - that the coverage has been met with a great deal of surprise and worry among people in North Devon and beyond.

Our staff share many of the same concerns.

However, the coverage contains no new information.

It refers to information in the Case for Change document that was published in February by the Success Regime in Devon.

The Success Regime is reviewing the whole health and care system in Northern, Eastern and Western Devon and is in the process of developing options to transform services across the county to ensure they are clinically and financially sustainable for local people for years to come.

The Case for Change sets out the key issues and challenges facing the NHS in Devon, as well as a series of opportunities to transform services for the better.

To access the document please visit the front page of our website www.northdevonhealth.nhs.uk

The media coverage appears to refer to information on pages 23, 24 and 25.

These pages describe some of the issues we face at NDDH due to our relatively small size and the rural nature of Northern Devon. This is nothing new and we have successfully overcome these challenges for many years - we are now one of the best performing hospitals in England in terms of A&E, treatment waiting times and patient experience of our care. Our staff rate us as one of the best NHS organisations in England to work for.

Understandably, some people have asked why the NHS has neither confirmed nor denied rumours about the potential loss of services at NDDH.

After the Success Regime was launched last year, it was made clear that there would be no 'red lines' and all options would be considered across Northern, Eastern and Western Devon.

With this in mind, and with the range of possible options to address Devon's challenges due to be announced and discussed in the coming months, there will inevitably be a lot of speculation and debate - local people are understandably very attached to their local NHS. We have seen a huge amount of public support for services at NDDH over the past 48 hours, which the Trust welcomes.

However, until we have gone through a proper process of analysis and consideration - including more formal engagement with patients and public - it would simply not be right to add to this speculation.

We are sorry we cannot say more at the moment, but when we and the Success Regime are ready, we will clearly explain how people can respond to any consultation. We will of course involve our network of partners, councils and patient groups to ensure the rest of Devon hears our voice about these really important issues. We expect this engagement process to start over the summer 2016.

Over the last few weeks we have been meeting with town, district and county councillors in each town to talk about the Success Regime as we anticipated that people might be worried by what they read in the Case for Change.

Please rest assured that I am making every effort to represent the patients and communities of Northern Devon when I meet the other NHS and care leaders in Devon.

We can be certain that there will be change coming to the way care is delivered and accessed and my job will be to explain the clinical evidence behind the options. I will make sure that you have plenty of opportunity to explain what you think the impact of each option will be.

The Success Regime partners are working very closely together because the challenges faced by Devon are bigger than one organisation. There will be changes to services across the whole of Devon, not just at NDDH, and we are all working together to make sure that we get the best possible outcome for the people of Devon.

Dr Alison Diamond

Chief Executive

Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust