FURIOUS MPs are urging health ministers to act after it emerged that Pontefract Hospital is one of four facilities to enforce an overnight closure because of a staff shortage.
Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper and Featherstone MP Jon Trickett are calling on the Department of Health to increase middle grade doctor recruitment after it was revealed the Friarwood Road facility is not the only unit to be shut at night – with similar closures at hospitals across the country.
The MPs held an emergency meeting with bosses at the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Pontefract Hospital, to ask why they hadn’t raised staffing concerns earlier and demanded they take extra steps to recruit doctors so A&E can be reopened as soon as possible.
When trust board members voted to enforce a temporary overnight closure – between 10pm and 8am every night – they pledged they would continue to try and fill the vacancies so the unit can be run safely.
But Ms Cooper said: “People are still furious about the sudden closure of A&E. This service really matters and we need urgent action from the trust to reopen it again.
“That includes following the example of other hospitals and using more consultants and other kinds of doctors across the trust, rather than being so dependent on middle grade doctors where the shortages lie. “But we also need the government to act urgently to get more A&E doctors in place. Conservative health ministers promised us there would be no A&E closures, yet Pontefract is one of four A&E departments closed overnight because of staffing shortages. We need national as well as local action to sort it out.” Pontefract Hospital’s A&E unit’s overnight closure began on November 1 – just over a week after trust board members voted to make the decision for safety reasons.
This week, bosses at Stafford Hospital made a similar decision, citing a shortage of middle grade rota emergency staff. An overnight closure has already been enforced at Central Middlesex Hospital.
Mr Trickett added: “Many local people feel totally betrayed by the hospital board. We warned at the time of the changes to the management of the hospitals when they were merged together with Dewsbury Hospital that there was a danger that emergency services could be centralised to Pinderfields. We said that this would be unacceptable. But an absolutely clear promise was made that there will be a 24/7 A&E service at Pontefract Hospital. This promise is now being broken.
“When the present government came to power they said they would cut waste, not frontline services. The prime minister said he would protect the NHS. We are now demanding immediate action to reopen the A&E at Pontefract Hospital”
A public meeting to discuss the temporary overnight closure will be held in the assembly rooms at Pontefract Town Hall at 6pm tonight.
Members of the trust’s board will tell residents why the decision was made and answer residents’ questions.
l See next week’s Express for a report from the meeting.