• University Hospitals of Leicester Trust wants to close an ICU due to significant safety concerns
  • Trust’s medical director warns delays will have significant consequences if more staff leave
  • Trust wants to move ICU to an 11 bed extension at Glenfield Hospital and open a six bed ICU annex at the Leicester Royal Infirmary

An intensive care unit and its dependent services are being closed and relocated from Leicester General Hospital because of workforce shortages and concerns for patient safety, HSJ has learned.

University Hospitals of Leicester Trust and local clinical commissioning groups have said “significant and ongoing operational difficulties with staff recruitment and retention” persist within its intensive care unit at the LGH site.

The trust warned in a report to the city’s joint health scrutiny committee that any further staff losses on the ward would mean it would cease to provide a surgical service.

This would lead to approximately 1,800 patients needing to travel outside Leicestershire for surgery, losing the trust £15m of income.

UHL said it was only able to maintain the level three service at the LGH “as a consequence of staff going above and beyond on a daily basis to cover rotas”.

The trust wants to move the ICU to an 11 bed extension at Glenfield Hospital and open a six bed ICU annex at the Leicester Royal Infirmary. The trust proposed moving the ICU in 2015 but could not move forward because of lack of capital funds. 

In a report to the health committee, the trust’s medical director Andrew Furlong said the trust “cannot stand still” with the scheme’s delivery, adding there would be “collateral damage of failure to progress”.

“In certain quarters the trust’s pursuit of this project has been branded as ‘underhand’,” Dr Furlong added. “More recently the clinical reasoning has been questioned, though not by anyone who practices in intensive care.

“Larger ICUs with modern facilities leads to better staffing levels, better use of resources, less cancellations, improved infection control.”

The three local CCGs involved told HSJ the move of intensive care services “will proceed” to ensure “continued safe services for our patients while significant capital funding is available”.

A Leicester City CCG spokeswoman acknowledged on behalf of the CCGs they “could have done more” to keep people aware of the proposals.

“The case for moving intensive care from the LGH site relates to the ability of the services to run safely when there are significant and ongoing operational difficulties with staff recruitment and retention and concerns over cramped layout and appropriate facilities for patient care,” the spokeswoman said.

In the trust’s most recent board papers, trust chief executive John Adler said the decision “was not reached easily”.

“We have agreed to undertake an extensive programme of public engagement sessions to talk about our wider Better Care Together and reconfiguration plans, but also to answer questions about our plans to develop our intensive care facilities,” Mr Adler said.