UNDER-FIRE health chiefs will today discuss a proposal which could see Pontefract Hospital’s A&E department reopen at night – after mounting pressure from the Express and outraged community leaders.
Members of the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust’s board will hear details of a plan to reverse the controversial overnight closure of the Friarwood Lane unit after thousands of angry residents backed our fight to Save Our A&E and get the 24-hour facility the town was promised.
A report to today’s meeting at Wakefield’s Pinderfields Hospital reveals trust bosses have identified a “revised service model” for the department and action is being taken to determine a possible time frame for reopening the unit at night “as soon as it is safe to do so”.
Since the Express launched its campaign last October, more than 2,500 people have signed a petition against the trust’s decision to shut the unit between 10pm and 8am from last November because of a shortage of middle grade doctors.
The report says trust bosses have visited Hexham Hospital in Northumberland, which uses “highly skilled nurse practitioners and a small pool of GPs with key skills in emergency medicine” to keep its A&E open at night.
It reveals risk assessments have been carried out into two different “alternative service models” for Pontefract and adds: “As a consequence, action is being taken to agree the competencies of the nursing and medical staff required, understand the issues associated with recruitment of these staff and to determine a possible time frame for the reopening of the unit at night as soon as it is safe to do so with the staff needed for the revised service model.”
The announcement comes just weeks after the Express asked “what on earth is going on?” as plans to bring in army medics to staff the unit hit the national news headlines and were quickly scrapped.
Shortly after, trust chief executive Julia Squire and board chairman Ed Anderson stepped down from their roles as the trust faced scrutiny over its financial management and a £20m deficit. They will be replaced by interim chief executive Stephen Eames and interim chairman David Stone in March.
Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper and Featherstone MP Jon Trickett welcomed the step to reopen A&E but urged the trust to take action quickly.
Ms Cooper said: “The board needs to agree action this week to reopen the service, otherwise it will look as though it is dragging its feet until the new management arrives.”
Mr Trickett added: “There is absolutely no reason for the trust to delay.”