Overnight Telford A&E closure could force Shropshire patients out of county
Closing Telford’s A&E department overnight could force some patients to have to travel out of Shropshire for treatment, health bosses have said.
Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust has approved a plan to close the accident and emergency department at Princess Royal Hospital overnight if a substantive consultant cannot be recruited on the rota.
Simon Wright, chief executive of Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, spoke about the implications of such a closure at a Shropshire Council and Telford & Wrekin Council joint health overview and scrutiny committee yesterday.
He said the main problem was the protection of paediatric and head and neck patients needing emergency care.
Mr Wright told the meeting: “If we were to introduce an unplanned closure, those two services would have to go out of county, probably to New Cross.”
Although he said this might not happen if the trust could secure the support it needed in Shropshire.
If the plan is put in place, A&E would have to close between the hours of 8pm to 8am for up to two weeks. Health bosses have insisted that will only be done if the situation becomes unsafe.
The news of a possible closure followed the resignation of a consultant, placing additional pressure on the existing workforce.
However, health bosses now say they are getting closer to making sure they do not have to take that extreme measure.
Mr Wright told the meeting that they are talking to a locum doctor in the hope he will step up to the role of becoming a substantive consultant who will work on the rota.
He also reiterated that there was ‘no desire or intention to reduce or close any part of our A&E departments’.
The accident and emergency departments have been under extreme pressure over the winter period.
In January, the trust was ranked the worst in the country for its A&E waiting times.
Around a third of patients had to wait longer than the four-hour government target, according to figures from NHS England.
Mr Wright said the trust had been ‘overwhelmed’ and there had been a bed shortage.
He said there had been more flu patients and the cold weather had been harsh on those with respiratory problems.
Patient discharge has also posed a problem and the committee was told processes surrounding it were being scrutinised.