ACUTE CARE: Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust may have to further restrict accident and emergency opening hours at Stafford Hospital due to a shortage of nurses, it has emerged.

Chief executive Maggie Oldham delivered a slide show presentation at the trust’s senior management team meeting last week which said “further restrictions on A&E opening times cannot be discounted”.

The changes may be necessary because “regular demand for beds is greater than sustainable supply”, her presentation explained.

The department has closed overnight between 10pm and 8am since December 2011 after the trust said it had too few doctors to keep it open 24 hours a day.

In a statement issued after the meeting, Ms Oldham said further restrictions “would be a very last resort”.

“The reason why we are having to consider doing this is because we haven’t got enough experienced nursing staff to look after all the patients on our wards without relying heavily on agency staff,” she said.

“If we were to reduce A&E opening times, even by a few hours a day, we would be controlling the number of patients who would then need to be admitted onto the wards.”

Ms Oldham said the trust did not have enough experienced nurses because of the “reputation of Mid Staffs” and “uncertainty about the future”.

The trust will be dissolved by the end of 2014 with its services transferred to either University Hospitals of North Staffordshire Trust or Royal Wolverhampton Hospital Trust.

The intention is for A&E services to remain open at Stafford Hospital after the trust is dissolved.

Ms Oldham said the trust had “set up initiatives to help reduce the numbers of people coming to A&E and to find beds in the community for those patients who no longer need to remain in an acute hospital”.

She said these measures were “beginning to prove effective and may help ease the situation”.

The trust has not said what A&E opening hours might change to, or when a final decision on the issue is likely to be made.

The special administrators brought in last year to advise on a future for a trust recommended that Stafford A&E’s current opening hours should be retained.