Our two A&Es aren’t coping. At both hospitals – the Princess Royal and the Royal Shrewsbury – it is becoming routine for ambulances to be stacked up outside because there is no capacity in A&E; for patients to wait hours for treatment; and then for patients to be left on trolleys for many more hours because there are no hospital beds available. Last weekend, both hospitals failed to cope – and we heard some appalling accounts of what this meant for frail elderly people. This is not the fault of hospital staff. This is about a system that is under-funded and does not have the capacity to cope.
Astonishingly, the hospital trust is floating the idea of CLOSING one of the A&Es almost immediately. Just think that through. We have two A&Es that aren’t coping. Hospital bosses are considering closing one of them down, at the start of the winter, and at a time when they are already saying they don’t have enough money to pay for the number of sick patients they are expecting to have to treat. If they do something as stupid as this, it guarantees chaos in our hospitals this winter – and it comes close to guaranteeing unnecessary patient deaths.
What’s going on? SaTH, the hospital trust, has told the Shropshire Star that an Emergency Consultant is due to leave in December, and that this could cause them to reach a ‘tipping point’. The press report talks about possible A&E closure as a direct result. That’s one version of the story. The other version of the story – in a report going to representatives of Shropshire Council and Telford and Wrekin Council next week – is that an Emergency Consultant has returned from sabbatical leave, another two locum Emergency Consultants have been retained, and there is support from Emergency Consultants at Stoke one day a week. There are now six ‘substantive’ Emergency Consultants, and the risk rating for the service has been reduced. There’s no mention of a ‘tipping point’ there.
We know from the hospital trust’s Board meeting on 29th September that they haven’t got enough money to manage winter pressures at both hospitals, Shrewsbury and Telford, over the coming winter. At the meeting, they couldn’t decide what to do. It seems possible – and we really hope that this is not the case – that senior managers are contemplating talking up a ‘tipping point’, exaggerating the problems of staff shortages, and using this to justify the cost-cutting closure of an A&E and the loss of emergency acute care at one of our hospitals. This would be a grotesquely unprincipled response to the undoubted pressures in our local hospitals. We sincerely hope that they will not take a decision that would cause so much harm to patients.