Stafford Hospital has shut its accident and emergency unit at night due to staff shortages.
The planned closure of Stafford Hospital’s accident and emergency department between 10pm to 8am started last night and will last three months. The hospital is at the centre of a £10m public inquiry into standards of care.
The closure coincided with the end of a 139-day public inquiry set up after a 2009 Healthcare Commission report discovered “appalling standards” of care at the hospital.
Patients requiring A&E treatment overnight will be dealt with by neighbouring hospitals.
Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, announced the temporary closure of the department last month.
Chief executive Lyn Hill-Tout said there were not enough doctors and consultants to keep it open 24 hours a day, admitting that the problem was “partly due to the reputation of the trust”.
She said at the time: “Our emergency department is safe. However, because of the number of doctor vacancies we need to close it temporarily at night, which will allow resources to be focused on daytime activity, thus increasing quality of care, and this will also allow a period for intense staff development. Our overriding concern is to keep patients safe.”
Between 400 and 1,200 more people died than would have been expected at the hospital between 2005 and 2008, with the Healthcare Commission discovering a catalogue of failings and appalling standards which put patients at risk.
It said managers were distracted by targets and cost-cutting, while it accused regulators of failing to identify problems quickly enough despite warnings from staff and patients.
The public inquiry began last year and has heard evidence from more than 180 witnesses at an estimated cost of £10m.
A million pages of evidence have been presented to the chairman, Robert Francis QC who is expected to publish his findings next year.