• Royal college to review children’s emergency service at Stafford hospital after safety fears led to suspension
  • Trust has opened new minor injuries unit to treat children but those with severe illnesses will be transferred
  • Report to be published next year after trust visit and analysis of data

A review of children’s emergency services at Stafford hospital is being carried out by experts from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health after safety fears led to its suspension.

The University Hospitals of North Midlands Trust, which runs the re-named County Hospital site in Stafford, suspended children’s services at the accident and emergency department in August after concerns were raised about a lack of staff with specific paediatric and anaesthetic training.

Stafford Hospital

Stafford Hospital

UHNM said the interim closure will not affect adult services

The suspension came 10 years after the same concerns were raised over emergency services for children at Stafford hospital, which was then run by Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

The RCPCH has been invited by UHNM to examine the service, which remains suspended, and help it work out the way forward.

The work will look at the entire service, which sees 30 children a day; examine trust data; and include a full visit of the site. The royal college will publish a report of its findings.

During the suspension of services the trust has announced the creation of a new minor injuries unit at County Hospital for under 16s, which opened today. Teenagers aged 16 and over can still be seen in the main A&E.

The unit will see children with head injuries, limb injuries and wounds, as well as sprains, bruises and fractures. The trust is advising parents not to bring children who have illnesses or are severely unwell or injured.

The trust has said any unwell child who requires more than one hour of observation or specialist treatment will be transferred to its Royal Stoke hospital.

Ann Marie Morris, trust emergency medicine consultant and clinical director, said: “I’m pleased we have been able to launch this service safely and swiftly following the temporary suspension of the children’s emergency centre.

“The decision in August was difficult but the correct one for patients. However, it was important to provide a safe service at county hospital as quickly as possible.”

UHNM said the interim closure will not affect adult services, which remain open 14 hours a day between 8am and 10pm.

In 2006, a review of services for critically ill children at the hospital said there were “immediate risks” because of low levels of medical and nursing staff trained in paediatric life support. It said these staff were absent from the A&E for “much of the day” with no one on duty in the paediatric ward with relevant training at night.

It also said there was insufficient medical and nursing staff generally within A&E with no nurses available for triage and patients waiting for up to two hours having only been seen by a receptionist.