NHS Trust temporary closure to remain for next “3-6 months”
Commentary by Institute Senior Associate, Paul Parsons:
This week the new NHS Long Term Plan was launched, detailing the very real challenges it aims to address. As applause from the launch event echoed, and debate raged on social media about the inevitable outcomes of government decisions to cut training bursaries, more stories of the effect of staff shortages on cherished local services were appearing in our newsfeed, including this one from Northumberland.
This article covers the local hospital trust appearing in front of county councillors to answer questions on decisions it has taken to close temporarily a community inpatient ward in Morpeth and the Urgent Care Centre in Hexham at night. These are always difficult discussions for NHS colleagues and this one won’t have been eased by knowing that last summer those very councillors used their legal powers to contest the decision to close another rural community inpatient ward at Rothbury in the county.
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s chief operating officer Helen Ray admitted at this week’s Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing committee meeting that there would continue to be no urgent care facility between 10pm and 8am for the next three to six months, at least.
After a failed attempt to resume the service in October, the overnight care was again suspended in November due to ‘severe staffing pressures’.
At Tuesday’s committee meeting, Mrs Ray said there currently were not enough specialist nurses, described as equivalent to junior doctor level, to be able to staff all of the sites.
“We made repeated efforts to keep it open but, with scarce resources, we have to base that where our busiest centres are,” she said. “The solution is to ‘grow our own’, but the training programme lasts three years, so this is not going to provide an immediate response. I can’t see Hexham’s overnight urgent care service opening for the next three to six months because of staffing issues.”
Article originally appeared on Hexham Courant
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