THE chief executive of the trust that runs Pontefract Hospital has apologised for the controversial overnight closure of its A&E – but said it would only reopen when it was “safe” to do so.
Stephen Eames, who joined the under-fire Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust earlier this month, said he hoped to have a plan in place for the model it would use to reinstate the Friarwood Lane unit to a 24-hour service by the end of April.
Members of the hospital’s board voted to shut the department from 10pm to 8am every day last November because of a shortage of middle-grade doctors across its A&E units in Pontefract, Wakefield and Dewsbury.
The trust has previously said it was looking at an “alternative service model” for Pontefract A&E at night, which could see it staffed by a large pool of skilled nurses and a small pool of GPs with specialist skills.
Mr Eames, who replaced former chief executive Julia Squire, said: “The difficulty has been recruiting the specialist staff we need to bring the overnight services back.
“While I’m sorry about what’s happened here for the local community, it wouldn’t be right to put in place a service that wasn’t robust and means we have to do the same thing again in a few weeks’ time.
“We are looking at ways of running a service on a 24-hour basis that’s sustainable. First and foremost, the new service model has to be safe – as well as sustainable. When it’s done, it will be there for the future.”
The health boss said staff at the trust were currently looking at ways to make “better use” of facilities at the new £60m Pontefract Hospital – including more elective surgery, outpatient appointments and diagnostic work.
He added: “We’ll be making an announcement about A&E at the end of April and by the end of May we will be able to say what else we will be doing at the site.”