AN NHS trust facing staff shortages and a rising financial deficit could carry out a controversial centralisation of A&E services six months earlier than planned.
Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust is planning to speed up a shake-up of services after being warned by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) over staffing levels.
Dewsbury and District’s hospital will effectively be downgraded to an urgent care centre treating minor ailments under the plan, which will see critically-ill and injured patients taken to a beefed-up A&E at Wakefield’s Pinderfields Hospital.
The A&E move was planned for spring 2017, but has been brought forward to this September next year under new proposals made after the CQC rated Mid Yorkshire as “inadequate” for whether its services were safe.
CQC inspectors found low staffing levels and poor hygiene in parts of the trust, a report published in December revealed.
A report to the Wakefield and Kirklees joint health scrutiny committee meeting on January 8 said a new timeline was agreed in principle “as part of the response to the Care Quality Commission’s recommendation to achieve safer nurse/bed ratios”.
Parts of the shake-up, including consultant-led maternity services being centralised in Wakefield from next summer, will go ahead as originally planned.
The report said earlier implementation of the plans would lead to £10m a year in savings for Mid Yorkshire.
It emerged last month that the trust was forecasting a financial deficit of £21.3m at the end of the year - £6.5m higher than planned.
Faster access to skilled medics for patients
and better use of Mid Yorkshire’s workforce are also expected from bringing the shake-up forward.
And it is hoped that making the changes earlier will lead to more stability for the trust and its workers.
The scrutiny committee report said: “There is a risk that a protracted transition creates instability and anxiety in the workforce which may result in staff seeking employment elsewhere and could exacerbate staff shortages.
“Completing the programme sooner could, therefore, provide greater security for the future of Dewsbury Hospital as a vibrant local health resource.”
Stephen Eames, Mid Yorkshire’s chief executive, said NHS bosses would formally consider the revised timetable this month and make a recommendation.
He said: “There is agreement in principle that the benefits that could be derived in terms of clinical safety by better deployment of existing workforce would justify delivering full reconfiguration in summer 2016.”
The plans to centralise critical A&E care has sparked fears that some patients would have too far to travel for treatment.
But it appears that bosses at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust believe proceeding with the shake-up as soon as possible is the only way of making sure patient care is safe.
The organisation is not alone in facing financial problems and staff shortages as NHS trusts struggle with the biggest squeeze on funding for half a century.
Figures from October showed that 82 per cent of A&E patients at Mid Yorkshire were either admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, against a target of 95 per cent.
Patients were left waiting in ambulances outside A&E for more than an hour 97 times in October.
Mid Yorkshire’s latest financial report said the trust expected to be £14.8m in the red at the end of March, but had forecast a £21.3m deficit after overspending by £9m so far this year.
The precarious situation is leading to fears of more “top-down re-organisation” by the government.