As Chorley’s A&E reopens, Megan Titley looks at what is next for the problem-hit department
Every Saturday morning since April last year, a group of protestors have gathered outside Chorley and South Ribble Hospital, demanding that its A&E reopens.
Tomorrow, the campaigners will score a partial victory, as the department reopens for 12 hours a day.
But they say the fight is not over, and are calling on bosses at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust to fully reinstate a 24/7 A&E service.
Forty weeks after the initial closure, the unit will open from 8am until 8pm.
When the A&E was closed in 2016 an Urgent Care Centre was established to provide an “alternative” service for patients who were not suffering serious injuries. Patients in life-threatening situations went to the A&E departments at Preston or Wigan.
We recognise that this temporary change has been a matter of great concern for local people and the wider community, and we sincerely apologise for the anxiety this has caused.Karen Partington, chief executive of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
At around that time a tender was also extended for organisations to take over the running of the urgent care service.
Since then the Greater Preston Clinical Commissioning Group awarded the tender to Go2Doc, a private urgent and primary care services provider.
The CCG has confirmed plans are good to go and Go2Doc will be taking over the Urgent Care Centre tomorrow, January 18, at both Preston and Chorley hospitals on a 24/7 basis.
The Trust has said that this frees up its staff and allows it to focus its efforts on reopening the A&E department at Chorley.
Karen Partington, chief executive of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said, “This has been a very challenging period for local patients, the wider community, partner organisations, and for our staff. The decision to temporarily replace the emergency department at Chorley with an interim urgent care service was a very difficult one to make, but was the best option to maintain patient safety.
“We recognise that this temporary change has been a matter of great concern for local people and the wider community, and we sincerely apologise for the anxiety this has caused.
“The establishment of the new urgent care centres at both hospitals will increase the level of service local patients are able to access, and provides us with an opportunity to reinstate the emergency department for 12 hours a day at Chorley Hospital.
“We wish to thank local health and care organisations, as well as other local hospitals, for their support in maintaining safe and effective care for patients during this period.”
Meanwhile Steve Turner of Unite the Union and Protect Chorley Hospital from Cuts and Privatisation has warned that the A&E could face difficulties initially.
He said: “From what we’ve heard, the Trust are struggling to get staff to reopen.
“On the ground we’re hearing stories about shifts not being covered so I just think its going to be very hard for them.
“Hopefully everything runs smoothly and it opens tomorrow and we can take it from there and move forward. The fact is that when you have a community of our size it must have an A&E.”
Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle, who has stood alongside campaigners each Saturday since the A&E was closed, also said that he had recieved assurances that the reopening was “on track.”
“I met with the head of NHS Improvement – the government oversight body – just a few days before Christmas and I was given an assurance that NHS Improvement, NHS England and the Department for Health expect the A&E unit to reopen on January 18 on an initial 12 hours basis, leading to a 24/7 unit in short time. The independent review which I called for demanded this reopening.
“The priority is the reopening of this unit and the reinstallation of equipment and staff.”
While campaigners wait on tenterhooks for the reopening to go smoothly, they have also stressed that ultimately the A&E departmentmust open full time.
Mr Turner said that he hoped the reopening of the A&E was a “stepping stone” to reopen 24/7.
“We will demonstrate until we get a 24 hour, seven day a week A&E at Chorley hospital,” he added.
Mr Hoyle warned that if the Trust did not keep to its word on reopening, management would be held to account.
“I have accepted all assurances in very good faith on behalf of the people of Chorley – if for any reason the unit does not reopen this can only be down to failing management and intentional miscommunication and I would expect the trust chief executive to walk away immediately and for the government to intervene directly.”