Local health services reaching 'tipping point'
HEALTH bosses have conceded Tiverton Hospital is "not being used as it should be" in the week the town's minor injury unit again had to be closed overnight at short notice.
Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust said due to "urgent unforeseen circumstances" the unit shut from midnight last Monday, until 7.30am the next day.
A Trust spokesman said the closure occurred because, at "very late notice", a Tiverton staff member had to be redeployed to cover the night shift on an inpatient ward at Ottery St Mary Hospital.
The future of the minor injury unit service at the hospital is currently under review, with the public having expressed a preference for the service to become an acute treatment centre, which would be doctor-led and open 14 hours a day.
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The Trust, which runs 17 community hospitals including those in Tiverton and Crediton has outlined priorities it has identified to attempt to drive up standards while facing major financial challenges.
Jac Kelly, chief executive of the Trust said at its annual meeting held at Tiverton Hospital last Wednesday that the Trust was reaching a "tipping point" with the NHS not receiving any growth in funding for the foreseeable future but with increased demand on its services.
Mrs Kelly said: "We have got some tough choices to make if we are going to ensure safe delivery of services. We cannot retain the status quo."
Tiverton Hospital was built under a private finance initiative (PFI) deal and the Trust is responsible for the debt that carries but the bulk of acute care and operations for Tiverton residents are provided by RD&E in Exeter, which is overseen by a separate trust.
Mrs Kelly conceded that Tiverton Hospital was "not being used as it should be" and that more appointments and operations should be provided locally rather than in Exeter, but said it was up to commissioners to determine which services were offered and how money was spent.
She said: "We would love to be providing more services, it is up to the commissioners to decide if they want us or another Trust such as the RD&E to provide a particular service."
Northern, Eastern and Western Clinical Commissioning Group was founded on April 1 this year and made up of local GPs and health providers responsible for buying health services from hospital trusts (providers).
Priorities for improvement next year identified by the trust included improving dementia care and patient information on discharge.