Campaigners fighting to save the Accident and Emergency unit at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital say they “don’t believe” that a proposal to reopen the department around the clock is a genuine proposition.
As the Lancashire Post revealed yesterday, NHS leaders in Central Lancashire have laid out five broad options for the future of the service, which has been operating on a part-time basis for two and a half years.
READ MORE >>> These are the options for the future of Chorley A&E
One of them was to reinstate 24-hour care at the facility – and in spite of being deemed “not clinically viable” by a group of Central Lancashire medics, the option was recommended to be taken forward for further investigation. Other options included replacing the 12-hour-a-day A&E with one of two versions of an urgent treatment centre.
But Jenny Hurley, from the Protect Chorley Hospital group, said NHS bosses were “playing a game”.
“It’s just a way of them being able to say that they have looked at all the options – and we just don’t believe them.
“Bringing back a full-time A&E was never on the table – they want to turn it into a cold [non-emergency] site.
“We’ve spoken to locums who have offered to go and work at Chorley permanently, but they have been turned down – so they’re not even trying to fill the vacancies they have,” she added.
A shortage of middle-grade doctors was blamed for the temporary closure of the A&E for much of 2016 and the fact that it could only reopen part-time.
But Lancashire Teaching Hospitals said that it was offering permanent positions to all clinically-sound locums and continuing to advertise vacancies – but that it recruited across both Chorley Hospital and the Royal Preston and did not appoint medics to one particular site.
The report describing the various options for the future of services at the Euxton Lane facility will be discussed by Central Lancashire’s two clinical commissioning groups (CCGs). It has been recommended that they take forward eight out of a total of 13 individual options for further consideration by a group of independent medics form elsewhere in the country.
One of those set to be ruled out is retaining the current part-time arrangement, which advice from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) said was unsafe. But RCEM also warned that reinstating a 24-hour service would prove “rapidly unsustainable”.
That prompted Chorley MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle to brand the option “a sop”.
“Chorley has the fastest-growing population in Lancashire – it needs and deserves an A&E.
“But it sounds like a done deal to me [that the unit will close]. If the people who made these recommendations have ever come to Chorley, did they speak to the people who matter, the patients?
“If the A&E closes, then it would be closer for people in some parts of Chorley to go to Wigan or Bolton than Preston – but those areas are outside of [the Central Lancashire NHS area] and so won’t be part of any plan to mitigate the effects,” Sir Lindsay added.
Meanwhile, Preston MP Sir Mark Hendrick dismissed a suggestion that nationally-driven work to reduce A&E attendances would be enough to offset the effect on the Royal Preston of any changes at Chorley Hospital.
“I’d very much doubt that assumption – talk of ‘wider system transformation’ [to reduce overall demand] is gobbledygook designed to confuse ordinary people.
“What would be needed is a proper impact assessment to look at the potential effect on the Royal Preston and other hospitals, before a decision is taken about the way forward for Chorley,” said Sir Mark.
The office of South Ribble MP Seema Kennedy was also approached for comment.
A spokesperson for the Our Health Our Care (OHOC) programme, which is overseeing the process to generate options for the future of urgent and emergency care services in Central Lancashire, said:
“The Royal College of Emergency Medicine is an independent professional association of emergency physicians representing the entire country and is entirely separate from the OHOC programme.
“A panel of experts, including a lay member, visited both Chorley and South Ribble and Royal Preston Hospitals to conduct their analysis. During this two day visit, the review team spoke to dozens of senior doctors, nurses and others working at both hospitals, who offered their own experiences and opinions around working at both sites, backed up by the clinical data they provided.
“Their honest conclusions are based on their entirely independent assessment of services and what they heard from clinical professionals during the visit. In reality, this was the doctors, nurses and others who care for the people of Chorley, South Ribble and Preston every day – and are well placed to say what they think is best for patients.”
The public would expect that their local clinical commissioning groups, formed of local people and clinicians who live, work in and represent your community, take an honest,
thorough report such as this into account when developing its plans.
None of our 13 options will be implemented unless they can be demonstrated to be safe, clinically viable, and provide a sustainable solution to the challenges faced by the NHS in
The programme has also been clear that we would welcome significant capital investment in Central Lancashire to further improve hospital and community services for patients in
Chorley, South Ribble and Preston. We will continue to push hard to achieve this, working together with our partners.
Our vision in the programme remains absolutely clear: we want to deliver the best possible clinical outcomes for people in Central Lancashire," it concluded.
A joint committee of the governing body of the Greater Preston and Chorley and South Ribble CCGs will decide which options should be taken off the table and which sent for further consideration at a meeting on 28th August. The meeting is open to the public and will take place at the Farington Lodge Hotel on Stanifield Lane in Farington at 3pm.