A major NHS hospital in Lancashire has been forced to temporarily abandon its Accident and Emergency department amid staff shortages.
Chorley Hospital in Lancashire will downgrade functions in its A&E department starting this week, with the service offered now instead described as “urgent care”.
This effectively means that the service will be temporarily closed at night, and will not be able to take on the most serious patients until further notice.
In a statement, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, said there are currently “no other safe options for delivering care”.
Although there are many potential issues leading to this current situation, not least a fundamental gulf of funding, the trust blamed the national shortage of emergency doctors for this undesirable decision.
In particular, Chorley Hospital pointed to that fact that it had just eight of the 14 middle-grade doctors needed to fill its rotas.
Agency doctors have been working additional shifts in order to fill gaps in the schedule of the hospital, but the trust believes that this is simply not sustainable any longer.
With a cut in agency spending already imposed at Chorley Hospital, the trust stated that it has “not been able to secure the number of staff we need to continue to safely staff the rotas”.
Professor Mark Pugh, consultant anaesthetist and medical director of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, outlined the current situation at Chorley Hospital, and how long it is likely to endure for.
“Changing the current service provided at Chorley is a direct response to the immediate and significant staffing problem. We simply cannot staff the rotas, and it is an unacceptable risk to patient safety to attempt to provide an emergency department service with no doctors available to see people. These measures are temporary, and we will continue to do everything possible to secure all the staff we need and reinstate the emergency department service at Chorley.”
In a statement, national regulator NHS Improvement, reflected on the situation at the Lancashire health service organisation.
“It is clear that locally, recruitment of a particular speciality of Accident and Emergency staff has proved very challenging at the same time as demand for services has jumped by around 14 per cent compared with previous years. While the majority of patients are still being seen at Chorley, more seriously ill people will need to be seen at the trust’s other A&E facility, in Preston.”
NHS Improvement also outlined some of the measures that have been put in place as an emergency effort in order to maintain patient care.
“An ambulance will be stationed at Chorley Hospital so life-threatening cases can be quickly transferred to Preston, although 41 per cent of patients attending Chorley A&E don’t have any diagnostic tests or treatment.”