• Telford could “temporarily” shut A&E at night because of staffing shortages
  • Move would be latest in small but growing number of night time A&E closures
  • Other hospitals in Weston General, and Country, Grantham and District hospitals

The Princess Royal Hospital in Telford could be forced to “temporarily” shut its accident and emergency department overnight because of staffing shortages, the trust’s chief operating officer has warned.

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust COO Debbie Kadum told the July board meeting that if any substantive consultants or middle grade doctors leave “we will have to act on the plan to reduce [the A&E’s] hours”.

The warning follows “temporary” night time A&E closures at other hospitals such as Weston General and Grantham and District. The trusts running the hospitals also cited safe staffing as a key factor in their decisions.

The Shropshire Star reported that Ms Kadum said: “There is currently a 30 per cent nursing staff vacancy at our A&Es and an increased risk in middle grade doctor staffing.

“At present, 50 per cent of our consultant rota relies on locums… We continue to advertise but have had no applicants recently. If we receive a resignation of a substantive consultant or further reduction in middle grade doctors we will have to act on the plan to reduce hours at PRH’s A&E.”

The trust said any reduction of hours would be “temporary” and to night time hours. Local NHS leaders have debated a reconfiguration of PRH and its other site, the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, for several years. PRH has long been considered the more likely to face downgrade.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust announced its “temporary” night time closure of Grantham for an initial three month period to help “maintain safe services across Lincolnshire” last August.

There is still no indication of a change in the arrangement. An announcement from health secretary Jeremy Hunt on whether or not the Lincolnshire A&E plans will be investigated by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel was due earlier this year but remains pending.

Other hospitals that have implemented overnight closures recently include County Hospital, Stafford, which is closed from 10pm to 8am; and Chorley and South Ribble Hospital, which is closed from 10pm to 8am but has a 24 hour urgent and emergency care centre.

HSJ revealed in February the 24 emergency departments facing closure or downgrade by 2020-21 based on existing NHS proposals including sustainability and transformation plans.