MORE could have been done to reopen Chorley’s A&E unit sooner, says an independent report.
In the wake of the report, commissioned by health watchdog NHS Improvement, hospital bosses have said A&E will be reopening from January, following the recruitment of a new doctor, but it will be for 12 hours a day, 8am to 8pm.
The unit, which previously ran 24 hours a day, closed in April after Trust bosses said they were too short-staffed to operate safely.
Trust chief executive Karen Partington said: “We have never stopped trying to bring back A&E cover.
“In January, the new urgent care service will be up and running, and that will give us the extra resources we need to reopen A&E.
“We are still recruiting and the aim is still to reinstate a 24-hour service.”
The report says: “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 Emergency Departments would not meet the Royal Colleges’ best practice guidelines, but this is not an unusual situation and many organisations are unable to do so.”
Since the closure, there has been an Urgent Care Centre on site, which can only deal with minor injuries or less serious illnesses.
The report adds that in Chorley Hospital: “The current staffing provision, whilst a temporary measure to support transition, is excessive from an urgent care perspective.”
However this conclusion has been rejected by bosses at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, who say that they will have enough staff to reopen the A&E for 12 hours a day – but only in January once the new urgent care service is up and running.
As previously reported in the Evening Post, from January a new urgent care service for both Chorley and Preston hospitals will begin, staffed by Manchester-based private firm Go To Doc.
This will encompass out-of-hours GP care, as well as urgent care centres at Chorley and Preston Hospitals.
Trust chief executive Karen Partington said: “At the moment we do not have the medical staff to reopen Chorley’s A&E service immediately, we will reopen in January, which is when the new urgent care service goes online.
“When that is in place then we will have enough doctors and nurses to reopen safely.
“The report says that we have run the Urgent Care Centre at Chorley very successfully, but we do not have enough doctors to operate safely until the new urgent care service is in place.”
The Trust is still attempting to recruit more staff - particularly middle grade doctors - to ease pressure on the emergency services.
After a meeting with Chorley Council leader Alistair Bradley and Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle – both of whom have been active in the campaign to reopen the A&E – NHS England was invited to provide a report into staffing levels.
The Hospital Trust had said that it would not be reviewing the situation at Chorley until April 2017, but following the publication of yesterday’s report, an announcement was made that the A&E would be reopening, with January 2017 as the target date.
Coun Bradley said: “We welcome the report and its findings and a lot of what the clinicians say is in line with what we have been saying all along. “We certainly welcome the recommendation to re-open the A&E on a part-time basis but I don’t personally see why we need to wait until January as the report clearly states that the current staffing levels should provide a basis for a part-time re-opening of the emergency department.”
Chorley’s MP Lindsay Hoyle, who has been an active part of the protests over the closure, said: “I am very happy that with the recommendation that the unit should reopen. Since April I’ve been calling for this and I hope that we can see action very soon.”