Expert GPs may solve A&E staffing dilemma

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senior nurses and GPs could be used to staff a Yorkshire A&E unit that has been closed overnight.

Chiefs at the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust were told yesterday that the alternative was being examined so the casualty unit at Pontefract Hospital could be re-opened during the night.

It has been closed since November between 10pm and 8am because of a shortage of doctors.

Medical director Professor Tim Hendra said staff had visited Hexham Hospital in Northumberland where coverage was provided by a pool of highly-skilled nurses and a small team of GPs with skills in emergency medicine although in a report he warned this had taken several years to evolve and had “resource implications”.

A second visit to Burnley Hospital in Lancashire is planned for the end of the month.

In a statement, the trust said: “The trust will then develop a possible time frame for the re-opening of the emergency department at night, with sufficient staff with the required skills and experience to provide a safe service for local residents.”

The trust’s board was told there had been no adverse clinical incidents since the overnight closure and there had been no knock-on impact on the running of the neighbouring casualty unit at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield. Opponents of the closure have pointed to long waits for A&E patients at Wakefield which was struggling to meet waiting time targets.

In a separate move, trust bosses yesterday agreed to a six-month delay before plans for a major clinical reconfiguration of services at their hospitals in Wakefield, Pontefract and Dewsbury are drawn up.

A public consultation on the plans is not likely to take place until December.

It means planned cash savings for the trust, which is facing a deficit of nearly £20m in 2011-12, will not be achieved for at least another 12 months.