Emergency nurses fear for their jobs as staff shortages force A&E to close at night
Nurses at an overstretched A&E department forced to close at night feel uncertain about their futures, a union has warned.
Opening hours at Grantham and District Hospital in Lincolnshire have been temporarily cut amid a chronic shortage of doctors.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) says high vacancy rates for middle grade doctors means it cannot safely staff its three emergency departments 24 hours a day.
Too many vacant posts
The trust says it needs 15 consultants and 28 middle grade doctors, who are experienced juniors, to staff their departments.
Currently they only have 12 middle grades, or just 43% of the number required, and 14 consultants, 10 of whom are locums.
There are also 26 nursing vacancies across the hospital.
Fears for the future of existing nursing roles
It said closing the Grantham A&E rather than units at Lincoln County Hospital and Pilgrim Hospital in Boston was the ‘safest option’ as Grantham saw the lowest number of patients.
A spokesperson for the trust said nursing rotas will be changed to reflect the new opening hours, and that there were currently ‘no plans’ to deploy staff elsewhere.
Unison East Midlands regional head of health Dave Godson said: ‘There are real fears for the future of the service.
‘Understandably staff are nervous as they have chosen to live and work in Grantham and that is where they want their jobs to be.
‘There seems to be a disregard for the effect on staff but the trust have said that it is going to keep staff up to date and they will have regular contact with staff.’
A growing trend?
ULHT medical director Dr Suneil Kapadia said: ‘The quality and safety of patient care is the trust’s number one priority. We have tried to recruit in the UK and internationally, and we have offered premium rates to attract agency doctors while investing £4 million in urgent care services. Despite this, we have reached crisis point.’
The problems at Grantham and District Hospital follow a decision in April to downgrade the A&E department at Chorley Hospital in Lancashire to an urgent care centre, due to a lack of staff.
In June it was announced that North Middlesex Hospital A&E in London could be closed on safety grounds due to the high numbers of poorly supervised and inexperienced young doctors.
New figures from NHS England reveal that 90.5% of A&E patients in England were seen within four hours in June, up from 90.2% in May but still below the 95% target.