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Response to the closure of Chorley Accident and Emergency Department – comment from Mike Wedgeworth

Mike Wedgeworth, Chair of Healthwatch Lancashire, says:

Photo of Mike Wedgeworth

“The temporary closure of the Accident and Emergency Department at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital has provoked an understandable (and some may say predictable) avalanche of reactions, ranging from an MP who brands it a management failure to a trade unionist who blames the Government.

But the crucial questions are ‘what do patients think about it?’…’How do they feel they are likely to be affected?’

Healthwatch Lancashire’s job is to gather answers to these questions in as fair a way we can, and without fear or favour, to feed them back to Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for the Trust to consider.

We have placed the Trust’s statement about the closure on our website. We will assess the responses objectively whilst at the same time keeping an eye on the press and on social media and seek to speak personally to individuals who may be affected.

Meanwhile, it seems only fair to say that no Trust anywhere in the land would take such a decision lightly, and that the reason put forward for the Chorley decision (ensuring patient safety) has at least an even chance of being true.

A recent study of the problems in accident and emergency departments by the respected and independent The King’s Fund says it all: “they simply cannot recruit permanent staff”. Instead Trusts have had to rely on staff employed by agencies that charge almost double the hourly rate. NHS England is trying to cap these rates, and the results are described as ‘patchy’. But this “fails to address the underlying issue of a shortage of supply”.

No wonder then that action has had to be taken in the interests of patients to transfer staff to a single site (Royal Preston Hospital) where at least there are other consultants, junior doctors nurses and other key staff to share the burden.

Certainly we must see how all this works out. But it is most unlikely to be a management failure, but rather an unpalatable but unavoidable response to an acute, nation-wide shortage of staff with the necessary skills and experience.”

Healthwatch Lancashire wants to hear stories from people in Lancashire about how they have been affected by the changes at Chorley emergency department, click here to share your views.