No date set - nor details yet - on when Chorley A&E will reopen
The trust which runs Chorley and South Ribble Hospital has reasserted that its A&E department will be reopened “as soon as it safe to do so” – but declined to set out the conditions which will determine when that is the case.
The part-time unit shut its doors completely at the end of March as part of the NHS response to the coronavirus crisis in Central Lancashire.
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH) said at the time that the temporary closure was “essential to save lives” – and enabled a 400 percent increase in critical care beds by freeing up the necessary staff to support the patients whom it was feared would fill them.
Hospital bosses also said that they would prepare a “de-escalation plan” – but when approached by the Lancashire Post this week, the trust did not specify exactly what needed to happen in order to demonstrate that its own safety criteria for reopening had been met.
Figures indicate that coronavirus cases across Lancashire as a whole peaked in mid-May.
Chorley MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle, a longstanding critic of the A&E’s part-time status, said it was “unacceptable” that a plan for restarting the service had not been published.
“Once again, this shows complete incompetence by the trust – they can’t even give a timeline to say: ‘This process will follow that process’.
“It’s funny how quickly they can close something, but there is a great reluctance to give us [a date] about reopening,” he added.
During a debate in the Commons last week, health secretary Matt Hancock told Sir Lindsay in an aside to an unrelated question that he was “a huge enthusiast” for Chorley A&E and was “working on that”.
South Ribble MP Katherine Fletcher told the Post that she had also received an assurance from the Department of Health and Social Care that the ongoing closure was “temporary and [the unit] will be reinstated”.
LTH referred to a statement issued in late April as continuing to reflect their current position, in which chief executive Karen Partington, said: “We realise that these temporary changes are a cause of concern for some within our local community [and] we will restore services to Chorley as soon as it is safe to do so.
“Our priority continues to be to use our hospitals flexibly and in a way that provides the safest possible care to the people of Preston, Chorley and South Ribble.”
A total of 235 people have so far died with Covid-19 at LTH.
Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans – part of whose constituency is served by Chorley Hospital – said that LTH could “clearly reopen” the A&E unit if it wished to do so.
“It is in the best interests of the people of Lancashire and the hard-pressed hospitals in our area if the department opened quickly.
“The trust needs to get on with it – if [they] had to stand for election, not one of them that took this decision would be elected,” Mr. Evans said.
A 24-hour urgent care centre has been operating at the Euxton Lane site since the A&E was closed.
The long-term future of Chorley A&E was set to be the subject of a public consultation this summer, but the process has been delayed by the pandemic.
Two out of the three options likely to be put forward recommend the permanent closure of the facility and its replacement with an urgent care centre, after medics from within Lancashire and beyond concluded that there was no clinical case for keeping the A&E department open.
Chorley and South Ribble’s clinical commissioning group (CCG) has previously stressed that it remains committed to holding a public consultation into the long-term future of hospital services in the region “at the appropriate stage.”