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Troubled NHS trust forced to temporarily close A&E due to staffing issues


By Valeria Fiore
Reporter
5 October 2018

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The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SATH) has said it ‘remains committed’ to recruiting more staff to keep its emergency departments open.

In a tweet on 3 October, the trust specified how many more clinical staff it would need to keep its emergency departments operational.

Last week, the SATH board decided to temporarily suspend A&E services at the Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) in Telford, which is part of the trust.

The trust said it could keep both its A&E departments – at PRH and the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) – open in the short-term if it managed to recruit a minimum of seven middle grade doctors and a minimum of 15 A&E nurses.

Medical director for unscheduled care at SATH Dr Kevin Eardley said: ‘We would be delighted to work with anyone who can help us find the staff we would all like to see here.’

Closure of A&E department

A&E services at PRH will provisionally close between 8pm and 8am starting from November. Until then the services will continue to run 24/7, the board decided last week.

The emergency department’s reduced hours could last six months, during which ambulances will be diverted to neighbouring trusts when PRH’s A&E is closed.

The emergency department at PRH will return to running 24/7 as soon as the trust is able to provide safe services, the board specified.

The trust has been suffering from a ‘prolonged shortage’ of A&E staff at both PRH and RSH since 2015.

SATH chief executive Simon Wright said: ‘This is the hardest decision that we have ever had to make, but it is the right one to safeguard our patients in the current circumstances.’

Troubled trust

The trust’s decision to reduce emergency department opening hours during the winter months comes just a month after an extra £145m were announced by the Government to ease winter pressures on hospitals.

Concerns over the safety of the care delivered within the trust had already been outlined in a CQC report published last year, which rated it as ‘requires improvement’ overall.

NHS Improvement is also conducting a Government-mandated review into the deaths and injuries of babies and mothers who were cared for at the trust’s maternity unit between 1998 and 2017.

The trust has also been recently notified by the body responsible for health and safety in the workplace, the Health and Safety Executive, of their decision to prosecute them over an incident that exposed people to asbestos – a mineral made of fibres that can be harmful if inhaled.

A spokesperson for HSE told Healthcare Leader: ‘HSE is prosecuting Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.

‘HSE was informed of an incident involving the disturbance of asbestos during the refurbishment of an old nursing accommodation block at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.’

The two parties are currently waiting for a date for the first court hearing.

Director of corporate governance at SATH Julia Clarke said: ‘We have been working very closely with the HSE on this matter over a number of years and will continue to do so.’

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