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Winter funding boost for Devon hospitals

​The four acute hospitals in Devon (clockwise, from top left: Derriford Hospital, Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Torbay Hospital, and North Devon District Hospital) have all received​ Government funding to help with winter pressures

Hospitals in Devon have been given more than £3.7million to improve care for patients over winter.

The Government money will be spent on projects designed to help winter pressures at the county’s four acute hospitals ahead of winter.

The Devon schemes are among 81 nationwide to receive funding from the Department of Health and Social Care’s existing capital funding budget, totalling £145million.

The allocations are:

  • Derriford Hospital, Plymouth: £2.5million to upgrade parts of the Emergency Department
  • Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Exeter: £700,000 to improve the ‘flow’ of patients through the hospital and reduce demand on the Emergency Department
  • Torbay Hospital, Torquay: £340,000 for key improvements to urgent and emergency care
  • North Devon District Hospital, Barnstaple: £175,000 to provide increased bed capacity

At Derriford Hospital, the funding will be used to upgrade parts of the Emergency Department, meaning children needing emergency care can look forward to an improved experience.

The department was originally built for up to 240 people attending every day, but over the last year the average attendance has been 278 people, with numbers regularly rising to 300 people per day. This results in cramped facilities and sometimes overcrowding.

The Government investment will allow:

  • An expansion of the paediatric area, taking the unit from three children’s consultation rooms up to five, plus a bigger waiting area and toilets for families to use
  • An improved resuscitation unit which could be double the size it is now, increasing the four bays to seven or eight

In the longer term, University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, which provides services at the hospital, has ambitions to create a brand new, fit-for-purpose Urgent and Emergency Care Department.

Ann James, the Trust’s chief executive, said: “We welcome this investment. It is much needed and will be much appreciated by staff and patients. Our long-term aim is still to rebuild the department as one fit for the region’s Major Trauma Centre and a specialist hospital. But this investment will certainly help alleviate the growing pressure on our emergency unit in the meantime.”

The £700,000 allocated to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital (RD&E) will go towards safely speeding up the ‘flow’ of patients through the hospital and back home again and helping to reduce demand on its busy Emergency Department.

The project is set to involve improvements to key areas closely connected to the Emergency Department, such as the Acute Medical and Medical Triage Units.

The Trust is also planning to use free-standing screens outside the hospital and potentially other locations to let patients know live waiting times for the Emergency Department compared to other local services such as walk-in centres and minor injury units.

Phil Luke, RD&E deputy operations director, said: “Helping the public to stay well and avoid staying in hospital any longer than necessary are key strategic objectives for the Trust so we positively welcome any extra financial support to help us achieve this.”

Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust has been awarded £340,000 for key improvements to urgent and emergency care at Torbay Hospital.

The funding will enable the Trust to:

  • Expand the waiting area and create four new treatment areas in its ambulatory unit, where people receive treatment if they are not going to need a hospital stay overnight
  • Improve the resuscitation area
  • Buy new patient trolleys and cardiac monitors

Dr Rob Dyer, medical director at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The trust is delighted to be awarded this money. It will help us improve our experience for patients, create a better working environment for our staff and help us avoid patients waiting longer than they need to. We plan to have the work at Torbay Hospital completed by the end of November, in time for the busiest winter period.

“The county-wide investment is good news for patients across Devon and will lead to enhanced facilities and services this winter.”

At North Devon District Hospital, Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust has the funding to provide additional bed capacity.

Jill Canning, the Trust’s interim deputy chief operating officer, said: “We’ve been putting plans in place to ensure we are as prepared as we can be for the coming winter period. An important part of this has been learning from the extreme pressures the NHS faced across the country last year, and looking at what we can do to keep things moving and avoid any unnecessary blockages in our services so we can provide the best possible experience for our patients.

“This funding will support us to open more beds this winter. Having more beds available for people needing admission will mean that we can ensure that wherever possible, we are caring for people in the right environment for their needs, in a timely way.”

This latest funding announcement follows a recently completed £1million refurbishment to the emergency department at North Devon District Hospital, after the Trust received Department of Health funding in April 2017. The updated emergency department provides a better environment for patients and has allowed the Trust to introduce GPs within the service to see those patients with less urgent needs.

In the last 12 months, the Devon Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) has attracted £30million of national funding to enhance urgent and emergency care services. Plymouth will develop a designated mental health facility at A&E and create four new interventional radiology theatres, while Torbay Hospital will upgrade its A&E department and establish Urgent Care Centres in Torbay and Newton Abbot.