Stafford A&E closure fears reignited as listening exercise begins
Fears over the closure of Stafford Hospital’s A&E have been reignited after health bosses released details of a ‘12-week public conversation’.
The listening exercise, run by local health and care partnership Together We’re Better, will focus on "simplifying the local urgent and emergency care system", which campaigners believe could lead to the closure of either the emergency department at County Hospital in Stafford or the one based at Queen’s Hospital, Burton.
Stafford’s A&E is currently only open from 8am to 10pm, with emergency patients at night directed to alternative centres. This has added further pressure on emergency services at Royal Stoke University Hospital.
Health campaigner Ian Syme said: “One will become an urgent care centre, I can see that being Stafford.
"This was all in the plans for sustainability and transformation process for the whole of Staffordshire.
“There is no doubt this will increase the pressure at University Hospital of North Midlands [Royal Stoke]. Just last month, they had a 15 per cent rise in ambulance traffic.
“However, we have Burton in the south and a closure in Burton would increase pressures in Derby, in Wolverhampton and in Walsall. We seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place here.”
The listening exercise is being run by Together We're Better, a "sustainability and transformation partnership" which includes health and social care organisations, Staffordshire County Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
According to NHS England, partnerships such as Together We're Better have been created across the UK in recent years in a bid to run services "in a more coordinated way" and to agree "system-wide priorities" for health and social care.
Mr Syme added: “A&E services are in a somewhat chaotic state, not just in Staffordshire but across the border in Shropshire.
“The impact will be like a ricochet throughout the system. Like dropping a pebble in a pond. It just ripples.”
But the trust which runs Stafford County Hospital said there are no plans to close its A&E.
Tracy Bullock, chief executive, said: “County Hospital is an integral part of the UHNM family, and our A&E offers a high quality and valued service to local people.
"We have no plans to close it and have invested in a refurbishment during recent years as part of an on-going improvement programme.
"People are being asked their views about a range of health and care services as part of a 12-week ‘conversation’ led by the partnership between health and care organisations – Together We’re Better.”
The listening event takes place at the Riverway Centre, in Stafford on June 6 at 7pm. People are being asked to visit Together We’re Better’s website at www.twbstaffsandstoke.org.uk to confirm their place at this and other listening events taking place across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent free of charge.
Other items to be discussed as part of the ‘conversation’ include developing a new vision for health and care in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent that is focused on high-quality community-based care ‘centred on the citizen’ and reviewing the use and function of the community hospitals in South Staffordshire.
Sir Neil McKay, chairman of Together We’re Better Independent, said: “We know we need to think differently, be innovative and work together to change health and care services so that Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent can become the healthiest places to live and work.
“We know this will take several years to achieve, and we need to involve local people in helping to shape that thinking."