A&E petition prompts top-level response

Youngsters made their own signs and joined the protest outside Chorley And South Ribble Hospital
Youngsters made their own signs and joined the protest outside Chorley And South Ribble Hospital

The Government has responded to a petition signed by more than 18,500 people calling for Chorley And South Ribble Hospital’s A&E department to be reopened.

The petition was set up after Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust announced the A&E unit would close temporarily last month and be replaced with an urgent care centre.

It calls for more money to be put into the trust so the unit could stay open.

But the Department of Health response states funding is not the issue and that Chorley and South Ribble CCG will receive £232.4m this year, an increase of 3.05 per cent.

Hospital bosses have blamed staffing issues for the closure of the unit, saying they have been struggling to recruit middle grade doctors.

The DoH statement says: “There are also more doctors now locally than ever before. Between 2010 and 2016 the latest figures show that the number of doctors at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust increased by 94 (14.4 per cent) and the number of nurses increased by 102 (6.2 per cent).

“Recruitment remains an issue but the trust has taken a number of steps to try to secure a permanent, sustainable workforce to provide the A&E service.”

Steven Turner, from the Protect Chorley Hospital Against Cuts And Privatisation group, said: “There is a lot of conflict in this response. The trust is saying they are struggling to take doctors on and what the Government is saying is there has been an increase in doctors.

“I think the crux of the matter is the trust really needs to ensure that this situation doesn’t remain much longer.”

Prof Mark Pugh, consultant anaesthetist and medical director for the trust, said: “We are continuing to do everything we can to recruit and retain the additional staff required to reinstate the emergency department at Chorley in a safe and sustainable manner.”

CCG clinical chairman Dr Dinesh Patel said: “We want to see the emergency department reinstated as soon as possible, but we will ensure that it is only reinstated when the agreed level of staffing can be sustained.”

Campaigners continue to call for A&E to reopen, with demonstrations held each Saturday outside the hospital.

Children joined this week after making their own placards and T-shirts and around 150 bikers will ride from Rivington on May 21 to take part.

A protest march will be held on June 11.

MPs Lindsay Hoyle and Seema Kennedy met Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt last week to talk about the hospital.

Lancashire County Council’s health scrutiny committee will hold a special meeting on May 24 to look at the situation.