Troubled Hospital Trust Could Close A&E Department


The Law Of... ensuring everyone has a right to immediate care

To try and mitigate the effects of a staffing crisis, a beleaguered hospital trust are considering closing an accident and emergency department overnight.

Troubled Hospital Trust Could Close A&E Department

Discussing the rights of patients to receive immediate care, Ramune Mickeviciute – Paralegal for the Medical Negligence team at Simpson Millar – explains how the proposal to close the A&E department comes after years of difficulties for the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

Staff Shortages

The trust has claimed that the move to cut opening hours at the Grantham and District Hospital is being considered due to a severe shortage of doctors.

Due to Grantham A&E treating fewer patients than nearby Lincoln County Hospital or Boston's Pilgrim Hospital, it is claimed that cutting hours at Grantham would be the safest option.

Staff shortages are an issue currently being felt across the NHS, as 168 trusts commit a combined £450million in order to recruit more staff.

The proposal to cut the operating hours of Grantham's A&E department comes after years of crisis for the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

In 2013 the trust failed to meet any national standards after a series of unannounced inspections.

At the time of the inspection, it was claimed that staff shortages were to blame for Lincoln County Hospital and Boston Pilgrim Hospital failing the surprise inspections.

In response to the failures, the trust invested £4million on nurse recruitment, with hundreds of new nurses starting work the same year as the failed inspections.

The bulk of this recruitment drive sought staff from overseas, with nurses from Greece, Spain, and Portugal all hired to reduce a reliance on agency workers.

This targeted recruitment soon backfired however, as many of these foreign nurses soon left, siting the trust's rural location and lack of local airport as reasons for leaving.

In a renewed effort, the trust sought nurses from Eastern Europe, in the hope that a large Polish, Lithuanian, and Latvian community in the rural areas of Boston would help new foreign nurses settle in the area.

Importance Of Immediate Care

By definition A&E departments deal with emergency cases where patients require immediate attention and there are a wide variety of injuries and illnesses that can become debilitating if patients do not receive immediate care.

Spinal cord injuries are an apt example of a condition that can have life changing consequences if it is not treated immediately. Following an accident, those who have suffered a spinal cord injury need to become immobilised as soon as possible, in order to reduce the risk of paralysis.

While a spokesman for the struggling trust claimed that a failure to act on staff shortages could place patients at risk, Ramune counters that without access to immediate care some patients could be in danger of their injuries worsening:

"Staff shortages bring many problems and it can seriously endanger patients, especially if their level of care drops or their access to treatment is affected."

"In many cases, the timing of consultation is crucial for the treatment of an injury and in many cases a negligence claim can be made if a patient's condition deteriorates because they were not treated in a timely manner."

"Grantham's A&E department sees approximately 80 patients every day and, while this is lower than neighbouring hospitals, some of these 80 patients may not receive the immediate care they require if they suffer an injury in the middle of the night."

"If this proposal does go ahead, it is vital that the other hospitals in the area benefit from extra staff, as they will undoubtedly see an increase in patients as people seek immediate care from the closest A&E department that remains open overnight."

"Most patients that visit A&E require immediate treatment and closing Grantham's department could be risky. With the quality of patient care the top priority, the trust should move to tackle their staff shortages and should ensure that every patient has the right to immediate care."

Receiving Sub-Standard Care

While the NHS is struggling with staff shortages, it is important that patients know that they have a right to receive a certain level of care. If their care falls below a level that could be deemed reasonably acceptable then a complaint should be lodged with the NHS, who are committed to investigating every complaint under their Duty of Candour.

If you are unhappy with the response from the NHS directly, you may want to follow up a formal complaint with a compensation claim, with complications arising from medical negligence often causing great losses to patients that did not receive an acceptable level of care.

Simpson Millar's medical negligence team can provide help and support on the complaints process and may be able to secure a compensation payment that mitigates the loss caused by a negligent medical professional.

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