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Downgraded A&E set to reopen after NHS Improvement review

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A downgraded accident and emergency department is set to be partially reopened in January, after NHS Improvement said “more could be done” to reinstate the service.

The A&E department at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital was suddenly downgraded in April this year due to staffing shortages. Urgent care services have been provided in its place, with serious cases diverted to the Royal Preston Hospital.

“We will be trying to recruit extra consultants and nurses to ensure the service is sustainable”

Karen Partington

There has been a high-profile campaign to reopen the department, but Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and its local commissioners said in August that the situation would be reviewed in April 2017.

But a review commissioned by NHS Improvement and NHS England – following a request from Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle, the trust and its commissioners – has now recommended the service be reinstated for a 12 to 18 month period, although for 12 hours per day instead of the previous 24 hours. 

This recommendation has been accepted by local leaders and regulators, who said the changes can be implemented in January.

The department’s future after that period will be determined as part of a wider reconfiguration of acute services which is currently in the planning stages.

The review document, which has been published by NHS Improvement (see related file below), said: “Current provision of medical and nursing staffing levels at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital provides an opportunity to enable reopening of the emergency department.

“We recognise that the staffing levels across both [the trust’s] emergency departments would not meet royal colleges’ best practice guidelines, but this is not an unusual situation and many organisations are unable to do so.”

NHS Improvement said the review was conducted by an independent review panel. A letter from the regulator’s chief executive, Jim Mackey, to the people and organisations involved, said: “The reviewers felt that more could be done to reopen the department sooner.

“However, the trust has expressed strongly to us that this is not practical given pressures at its Preston site…These are very real risks and the trust is best placed to weigh up the risks involved in their decision making,” he said.

Jim Mackey

Jim Mackey

Jim Mackey

“As a result, we have said that we will accept a position whereby the department reopens when a newly-agreed contract to provide more GPs in the co-located urgent care centre is implemented,” he added.

A five-year contract for the urgent care centre was recently awarded to Manchester-based urgent care provider GTD Healthcare, with the services due to launch in January.

Karen Partington, the trust’s chief executive, said the contract would enable the trust to redeploy staff, in order to “safely reinstate the emergency department part time”.

She added: “We have just successfully appointed a middle grade doctor, and will be continuing to try to recruit more, as well as extra consultants and nurses to ensure the service is sustainable.”

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