Future of A&E department is under review

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NHS bosses are being urged to keep Pontefract’s A&E open 24 hours a day after a shake-up of emergency care services was launched.

The town’s emergency department is under review after fears were raised that staffing shortages could lead to temporary overnight closures.

Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which controls the district’s NHS budget, is looking at new ways of staffing the A&E department as part of a wide-ranging review of emergency care.

There was an outcry in 2011 when Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust was forced to close Pontefract A&E overnight.

It reopened 24-7 after a private company was brought in to staff the A&E at night with emergency-trained GPs.

Pontefract MP Yvette Cooper said: “We have fought off several attempts to close Pontefract A&E.

“I hope the trust are not going to try the same thing again as a result of the NHS cuts.”

But CCG bosses said the review was designed to improve access to emergency care.

They have been working with GPs to extend surgery opening hours after a public consultation on emergency care was carried out.

Dr Adam Sheppard, the CCG’s clinical lead for emergency care, said: “Last summer we talked to local people about what they want from their GP practice and, in particular, how they want to access care when they have an urgent health need.

“We have also been working with local doctors and other health professionals, and reviewing the national evidence of what gives the best results for patients.

“Taking all this together, we are now going to ask people what they think about the developing plans. It is all part of an ongoing dialogue, and we really hope that people will get involved.”

People could be offered urgent GP appointments within four hours of calling their surgery under plans to speed up patient care.

The four-hour target is part of plans to cut attendances at A&E departments struggling with a shortage of emergency doctors.

Surgery opening hours are also being extended, but NHS bosses have admitted that providing seven-day services at all the district’s GP practices is not feasible.

They also want to make the best use of resources as government NHS funding falls behind the current cost of services.

A report by Wakefield CCG said: “There are currently multiple points of access for urgent and emergency care. This means that patients do not always find the right care first time. It can be confusing and inefficient. We want to create a system that is easier for patients to navigate.”

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