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Wednesday, 01 July 2015

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A&E ‘in crisis’: Trust’s plea as staffing shortage bites

STAFF shortages could reach “crisis point’’ this summer at the West Cumberland Hospital’s A&E.

By Julie Morgan

An urgent call has gone to other hospitals across the north to help fill gaps in the department over August.

And now Copeland’s MP Jamie Reed says the situation is one of “absolute chaos”.

He said: “I've consistently warned of this situation unfolding, most recently in April and this is now approaching crisis point.

“What we are looking at is the biggest challenges hospitals in North Cumbria have ever faced.”

Hospital chief Ann Farrar has sent a written plea to her counterparts at all trusts in the North East and North West asking for “immediate interim support for medical staffing... in order to maintain acute medicine services”.

It is unclear what will happen if vacancies, due to ongoing recruitment problems, cannot be filled.

Mrs Farrar said: “It’s becoming an increasing difficulty for us. We are up against a fair amount of competition.

“Most hospitals in the UK are looking for additional nursing and medical staff.”

Medical director Jeremy Rushmer said the immediate issues relate to the more junior level doctors needed to work in emergency medicine, as there is a shortage of trainees coming through in this region.

He wouldn’t speculate about what would happen if they fail to find the doctors they need – including whether the problem could hit hospital services. However, he anticipated the situation will ease after August, as more newly qualified doctors sign up as locums and the trust has had more time to recruit.

“We’ve had a particular shortfall in West Cumbria which is making the rotas difficult for August and we won’t be able to fill all of the gaps with locum medical staff. There is a problem obtaining well qualified and suitable doctors in this country, both for permanent posts and locums,” he added.

Three junior doctors were also withdrawn from the West Cumberland Hospital in April due to lack of available clinical supervision.

“We are very much focused on filling the gaps. At the moment there are no plans to change the way services are run,” he said. “We are absolutely committed to running all the services on both sites we can.”

Mr Rushmer said they were looking at all options – including the possibility of offering enhanced salaries or benefits to those willing to relocate, as has happened in social services.

However, Mr Reed said: “We need to know what the future services provided by the hospital will be, what has happened to 'Closer to Home', what pressures the hospitals are placing upon primary care, ambulance services and more.”

While praising WCH staff, Mr Reed said: “Many of these problems are as a direct result of government policy and I have written to the Secretary of State, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, and the NHS regulators Monitor and the CQC for assistance. Every time we reach a solution, the goalposts are changed.”

Have your say

It's well on the way to becoming Whitehaven Cottage Hospital. Which is perhaps what the Trust have been after anyway.

Posted by Dave on 25 June 2014 at 09:12

If the Council made the town more attractive with shops and facilities it might make a big difference. At present it has nothing to offer at all save Charity shops.

Posted by K. Mayers on 24 June 2014 at 13:33

View all 5 comments on this article

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