Retired consultant fears North Devon District Hospital will face a ‘domino effect’ after the closure of the department he helped create

A retired senior consultant said he fears for the future of North Devon District Hospital (NDDH) following the cancellation of its ear, nose and throat (ENT) services.

John Riddington-Young said he was ‘deeply saddened’ to hear of the closure of the department he worked in for 34 years.

Northern Devon Healthcare Trust says a shortage of doctors has led to the ‘temporary’ cancellation of the service for up to six months, with patients now having to travel to Exeter for appointments.

Mr Riddington-Young, 68, said: “This could mark a serious deterioration in the whole status of NDDH as a credible hospital.

“A ‘domino effect’ is likely. Anaesthetists will not want to come and work at a hospital where there is no experience in ENT surgery, and the Royal College of Anaesthetists would then withdraw their recognition of NDDH as a training centre.”

Mr Riddington-Young, who also served 33 years with the regular and Territorial Army, is well-known for his outspoken views on the way the NHS is managed and he has written two books on the subject.

He continued: “I feel sure the excellent doctors and nurses who work at the hospital will be saddened by this. I know that nobody feels this sad loss for North Devon more than me.

“To see the department which I had built up for over 30 years to be thrown away in this incompetent manner is heartbreaking.”

The trust has said it has been hit by a shortage of senior ENT doctors and the service was not viable.

Patients will have to visit the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital for emergency and elective ENT inpatient care; suspected cancer referral; head and neck surgery; and out-of-hours emergency ENT services.

Appointments with clinical nurse specialists; speech and language therapists and dietitians; audiology services (including hearing tests, hearing aid support and screening); oral and maxillofacial surgery; and radiology will continue to be provided at NDDH.