The decision to close Chorley Hospital’s A&E department has been slammed as “absolute nonsense”.
The Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been facing a staffing crisis, and workers were told yesterday that the A&E department at Chorley would be downgraded to an Urgent Care Centre from Monday.
It will open between 8am and 8pm and will be able to treat minor injuries and illness, but not life-threatening situations.
Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle slammed the move and said: “The plans to close A&E at Chorley are a reflection of poor planning, a failure to recruit and a continual trend of services being shifted from Chorley to Preston.
“I have continually warned about the shift of all emergency services to Preston and now we have seen this come to fruition.
“This is not a response to an unforeseen crisis but looks much more like a planned move.
“The Trust quotes patient safety as the reason for closure. How can you prioritise patient safety by closing an A&E department, forcing people to travel an extra half hour to Preston and place an additional 50,000 people on an already overcrowded A&E department at Preston?
“This is absolute nonsense.”
A statement from the Trust confirmed the emergency department at Chorley would be “temporarily replaced by an urgent care service until the staffing crisis is resolved”.
It said: “The urgent care service will be provided at the urgent care centre, at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital.
“The service will be provided by a combination of emergency department consultants, nurse practitioners, GPs, nurses and healthcare assistants.
“The vast majority of people who currently attend the emergency department at Chorley have conditions that can be treated safely and appropriately by an urgent care service.”
Professor Mark Pugh, consultant anaesthetist and medical director of the Trust said: “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.”
The North West Ambulance Service was also informed that from Monday ambulances will not be able to take urgent cases to Chorley.
NWAS’s Unite rep Neil Cosgrove said: “I have spoken to my head of service and they have confirmed that from Monday, 8am, the A&E will be closed and the hospital will have an Urgent Care Centre.
“From an ambulance point of view this will have a massive impact. We will be greatly increasing our travel time as we will be taking patients instead to Preston, Blackburn or Wigan if they need A&E care.
“We are really struggling already and this will make things much worse. The government has a lot to answer for for the way they have hacked away at the NHS.
“Our management at NWAS have done all they can, but this is out of their hands.
Coun Alistair Bradley, leader of Chorley Council, said: “I am deeply concerned that it appears that, for whatever reason, they haven’t had a sufficiently robust plan to staff A&E at both hospitals.
“Why is Chorley closing, why not reduce the hours at both Chorley and Royal Preston Hospital?
“I would hope any closure is very temporary, ie. a matter of days at most, and I’ll be urgently seeking answers from local and national NHS managers.
“My worry is people will, in the worst case, die or become a lot worse off because they haven’t got that availability of A&E close to where they live.
“I think it will have a serious affect on residents of both Chorley and South Ribble.”
UNISON Branch Secretary Pete Smith said: “This is a sad and worrying day for people in Chorley.
“The down-grading of the A&E department is not due to any reduction in the needs of the local community.
“It is a consequence of decisions taken by the Conservative Government to starve the NHS of adequate resources.
“For years the share of national income spent on our NHS has been falling.
“This has resulted in increasing pressures on staff – and now the recruitment problems are so bad that the A&E can no longer function.
“Jeremy Hunt should come to Chorley to see how his Government’s underinvestment is in danger of wrecking our NHS.”
Enid Armstrong, secretary and treasurer of the Friends of Chorley Hospital said she was “absolutely disgusted” by the move.
She said: “From a personal point of view, I think it’s absolutely awful.
“If they are expecting Preston to absorb everything, people are going to wait three days, never mind six hours.
“We need our hospital.”