Video calling ‘could prevent Telford A&E closure’
The introduction of clinical video conferencing could avoid the need to close Telford's A&E overnight, according to a former health chief.
David Sandbach, the former chief executive of Princess Royal Hospital (PRH), has written to Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin clinical commissioning groups saying they should negotiate with Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) to use tele-health techniques to keep the service running and avoid sending patients out of the county.
SaTH is considering whether to close the emergency department at PRH at night because of a shortage of consultants.
It can activate a plan to close it from 8pm to 8am for up to two weeks, but health bosses say they are doing everything possible to try and avoid this.
Mr Sandbach has written to the two CCGs saying he believes bringing in tele-health techniques, or clinical video conferencing, may be the answer.
In the letter, he says: "As far as I am aware the problem at PRH is that there is only one middle grade paediatric doctor on call covering the neonatal ward and the general paediatric ward.
"Asking this person to cover A&E arrivals is considered too much from a professional and overall patient safety point of view.
"Standard practice at the moment is for the doctors in A&E at RSH and PRH to assess children and then refer if necessary to the paediatric duty doctor for admission if this is found to be in the child's best interest.
"I believe that it may be possible to have the assessment task carried out in the A&E department completed by using a tele-health facility which connects RSH A&E and PRH A&E during the evening when the closure of the A&E is slated to take place."
He said if a tele-health arrangement is acceptable there would be no need to send sick children to Wolverhampton.
He added: "Rather than have contingency plans to close services on the basis of a staffing crisis I think the A&E and paediatric clinical staff involved should be asked to consider using tele-health technology as an alternative to a last minute unplanned closure.
"If the clinicians are agreeable it would be quite easy to acquire this equipment and practice using it before any further staff crisis hits the A&E departments.
"I do believe that a lot of parents will feel let down if this proposal is not given serious consideration by clinical and managerial staff at SaTH and in the CCGs."
In response, Dr Simon Freeman, accountable officer at Shropshire CCG, said: "In mitigating potential closure risks to the PRH’s A&E, whether or not SaTH use tele-health techniques is a matter solely for SaTH and their clinicians.”
Sara Biffen, acting chief operating officer at SaTH, said the trust had been working incredibly hard to avoid any overnight closure of the A&E department at PRH.
She added: "This includes a discussion held last week between more than 80 of our consultants, nurses and senior leaders about how we might work differently to support our colleagues in our emergency departments. We will be repeating this exercise this week.”