A MEDICAL director said steps were being taken to reopen Pontefract Hospital’s accident and emergency department at night – but warned it may offer a different service than it does during the day.
Prof Tim Hendra said chiefs at the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust were looking into “two models” which would allow it to reinstate the Friarwood Lane unit between 10pm and 8am – including a proposal to staff the unit with GPs.
He told trust board meeting last Thursday: “If we reopen the department in the very near future, which we hope to – perhaps with GPs – we may not be able to be able to deal with the same sort of patients at night as in the day because it will be a different service model.”
A “temporary, urgent” closure was enforced at the facility on November 1 last year because of a shortage of middle-grade rota doctors. The meeting heard a report examining the closure had been complied by consultant obstetrician David Evans and senior sister Lianne Robinson – assigned as a “critical friend” to the trust.
After visiting the “type one” A&E unit – which means it should offer a consultant-led 24 hour service – they made a number of observations and suggestions.
The report said the hospital’s 20-bed clinical decision unit had “daily consultant input” and admitted between eight and ten patients a day – but noted the “absence of critical care back up” for the department “seemed key to its continuing function”.
It added: “All the people we met stated that in effect Pontefract had never been providing a level one A&E service.”
Last October, the trust revealed it was looking at how it would run services across its three sites in Pontefract, Wakefield and Dewsbury over the next five years – with “all options” seeing Pontefract Hospital’s A&E downgraded to a minor illness and injuries unit. It had planned to launch a formal consultation process on the plans this spring, but the meeting heard it would now take place later this year.
The report said: “We agreed that the most likely way of being able to safely restore 24 hour opening to the emergency department at Pontefract appeared to be by developing a service model which reflected the support available to the service in Pontefract Hospital pending the outcome of the review of the overall service.”
Board member Jack Kershaw told the meeting people in Pontefract were “frustrated” by the overnight closure of A&E and saw it as the trust “hemming back” services “knowing full well it will change later on in the year”.
He asked Prof Hendra when the unit would reopen, who replied: “As soon as possible. That describes the urgency with which we’re dealing with the matter.”
Prof Hendra said “risk assessments” of the two service models for A&E would be carried out in the next two weeks. Chairman of the board Ed Anderson said he thought the closure had been “well managed”.