The potential night time closure of an A&E unit in Grantham has sparked fears of skilled workforce shortages across the NHS nationwide. With doctors and nurses already stretched with the recent renegotiation of contracts, is this a sign of a larger staffing problem within our national health service?
Overnight A&E problems
The problems at the Grantham hospital are a result of staff shortages locally, with not enough trained, qualified doctors and nurses to safely run a 24 hour service. The decision taken by the local trust (United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust) of closing the Grantham A&E overnight, rather than the smaller units in Boston or Lincoln County hospitals, was said to be a “safer option”.
The Royal College for Emergency Medicine (RCEM) said that the news was “disappointing yet unsurprising”. Many in the medical world believe that this is a continuing trend following similar decisions by other local trusts including Shroprhshire’s trust considering closing the overnight service as well as a Lancashire Trust closing a local A&E permanently in Chorley. Both of these cases were also linked to staff shortages.
Microcosm of the NHS nationwide
The worry of professionals is that the current trend of local trusts having to make decisions on services regarding staffing is a microcosm of the current state of staffing nationwide. With so much press this past 12 months regarding strikes and junior doctors contracts, the NHS is currently precariously poised as growing numbers of A&E patients and shrinking staff levels is beginning to take its toll.
Some local authorities have to consider the patient cost of sending them to a hospital further away or face an even longer wait than usual during peak hours at night in an understaffed local A&E department.
The “leave” campaign as part of their referendum pointed towards spending a large portion of EU money back on the NHS to increase overall funding. Whether this will come to fruition will be seen at a later date but as it stands, hospitals will currently have to continue making some very difficult decisions on opening hours, specifically in A&E departments.
Staff shortages are affecting hospitals across the UK
Staffing levels may have an adverse affect on tiredness and the capability to carry out medical procedures. Unfortunately, tired staff may make critical mistakes during vital surgery which can leave those on the operating table reeling for a long time. Medical negligence is not an issue worth taking lightly which is one major reason trusts are considering closing certain A&E departments at night.
Injuries in a medical setting can cost months, years or even lives from an injured person. No matter what the difficulties faced, a hospital must provide you with a safe environment with staff who are able to perform and keep you healthy.
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