Critical care ambulance service stripped back at Stafford's County Hospital
The critical care ambulance service at Stafford’s County Hospital has been stripped back.
Two high dependency ambulances, which transfer patients in major or emergency cases to Royal Stoke Hospital, will no longer operate between 11pm and 8am.
Patients will now have to rely on West Midlands Ambulance Service being called to take them between the hospitals.
High Dependency Units (HDU) are ambulances with specially-trained paramedics who can give care during transfer for serious cases.
Until this week the two ambulances operated 24 hours a day.
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Transfers from Stafford to Stoke are needed because the County Hospital only offers limited services following a controversial downgrade in 2014.
A concerned NHS worker, who did not want to be named, said: “This is really bad for the people of Stafford.
“Rather than having high dependency ambulances on standby, people who need major or emergency transfers will have to wait for a regular ambulance to arrive.
“The fear is that these patients, who need to get to Stoke because the specialist, emergency and trauma teams are based there, will fall in the pecking order because regular ambulances we see that they are already in hospital.
“It is likely that they will start to fall between the cracks in the system.
“It begs the question whether Stafford’s A&E should be an A&E at all, or just a minor injuries unit?” A&E at County Hospital is open between 8am and 10pm. Children’s emergency service has been suspended on safety grounds for the past year. Paula Clark, Chief Executive, said: “Two HDU ambulances have previously been on standby overnight for transfers from County to Royal Stoke. Following a review we found they were used only once per night on average, and some evenings the service is not utilised at all.
“Therefore we will now use the West Midlands Ambulance Service A&E service between 11pm and 8am, which will ensure patient transfer arrangements remain completely safe
“Outside of these hours, directly employed HDU Ambulances will still be on site at County Hospital between 8am and 11pm to ensure maximum cover at peak times.”