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Troubled trust secures clinical staff to keep A&E department open


By Valeria Fiore
Reporter
23 November 2018

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Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SATH) has managed to secure a sufficient number of middle grade doctors and nurses to keep its A&E department at Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) in Telford open 24/7, the trust has said.

The announcement, made today, comes after last month SATH decided to temporarily close its A&E department at PRH due to staffing issues.

However, it said it would have kept it 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.

Today, SATH revealed that ‘more than the minimum seven middle grade and 15 specialist nurses’ required to keep both PRH A&E and Royal Shrewsbury Hospital A&E open have been found.

It is a ‘mixture of locum and agency middle grade doctors’ who pledged to work in the A&E until the end of March 2019, SATH said.

SATH chief executive Simon Wright said: ‘This is fantastic news. We had said all along that we didn’t want to close either of our A&Es overnight, but that we simply couldn’t keep both open because of the staff shortages in our Emergency Departments.’

He believes that the news of the £312m investment for the reconfiguration of both hospitals helped them attract more consultants.

Mr Wright also thanked NHS Improvement, which he said allowed the trust to be ‘more flexible with the pay cap for middle grade A&E doctors’.

However, NHS Improvement told Healthcare Leader they haven’t made any exceptions for them but followed national policy.

An NHS Improvement spokesperson said: ‘National NHS agency rules give NHS trusts the flexibility to deal with exceptional patient safety issues by using a ‘break-glass’ provision.

‘The decision to use those provisions is made on a clinical basis at the sole discretion of the individual NHS trust to pay above the set price caps for agency doctors and nurses where it is deemed necessary. The agency rules are important not only for Trusts to ensure resources are used to optimum effect but also to ensure that the substantive workforce, dedicated to providing NHS services on a daily basis, are not unduly impacted.’

NHS Improvement placed the trust into special measures at the beginning of the month over safety concerns, after the CQC put conditions on the trust’s registration.

NHS Shropshire CCG chair Dr Julian Povey said: ‘To have to temporarily close a service because there are not enough staff is always a last resort and I am delighted that, at what was almost the 11th hour, a solution has been found to make sure the A&E Department at PRH will now remain open.’

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