Pontefract A&E to close at night?

MPs Yvette Cooper and Jon Trickett at Pontefract Hospital.
MPs Yvette Cooper and Jon Trickett at Pontefract Hospital.

PATIENTS needing urgent care will face longer journeys to hospital if Pontefract’s emergency unit is stripped down in a shake-up of services.

The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust plans to close Pontefract’s Hospital’s accident and emergency department between 10pm and 8am every night of the week because of a “shortage of staff”.

Ruth Unwin, director of development, said the idea was suggested by senior clinicians and, if approved at a board meeting next week, could be implemented as soon as November 1.

She said: “Pinderfields and Dewsbury are very busy consistently over a 24 hour period. In Pontefract, 19 people visit the department between 10pm and 8am – of which one needs to be admitted.”

The move has been prompted by a shortage of “middle grade rota” staff and fewer doctors choosing to specialise in A&E in Yorkshire.Bosses at the trust plan to convert the department to a minor illness and injury service, leaving patients with strokes, heart attacks and other major emergencies having to travel to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield. Maternity care for mums needing specialist doctors, and care for children who need to stay in hospital for over 24 hours, would also be centralised at Pinderfields if plans were approved.

Pontefract Hospital would retain a midwife-led unit and rehabilitation services after the reshuffle, which will go out to public consultation early next year. The trust has been struggling to balance its books after having to slash £60m this year and next under government spending cuts. But it said the new plans, set to take effect at the end of next year, were based on clinical evidence and community need rather than finance.

Dr Matt Shepherd, emergency department consultant and head of clinical service for emergency medicine, said: “NHS experts from the National Clinical Advisory Team (NCAT) said they had serious doubts about the sustainability and continued safety of the emergency department at Pontefract and recommended that a combined urgent care centre and minor injuries unit would provide the majority of urgent care services needed by local people, including broken bones, sprains, strains, minor burns and scalds and minor injuries and wounds.”

The trust said the plans were all at a very early stage and were currently being shared with local people, partners and staff.

Hemsworth MP Jon Trickett said: “I am alarmed at the suggestions we heard the other day, which are a clear breach of promises which were made. This is a betrayal of trust, and I would urge everybody to make their voices heard. People in the Hemsworth area urgently need local hospital facilities.

“Transferring more services to Pinderfields, including the decision for A&E, will leave longer waiting times and worse treatment at Pinderfields. “