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A&E Services at County Hospital, Stafford Suspended for Children & People Under 18

Tue 30 Aug 2016

Announcement from Liz Rix, Chief Nurse and Acting Deputy Chief Executive:-

Accident and Emergency services at County Hospital in Stafford have been suspended for children and people under the age of 18. The interim measure, which will come into effect from 10am from Thursday 25 August 2016, has been instigated by the Trust Board at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust because senior clinicians have advised that the service is not currently clinically safe. Adult Accident and Emergency is not affected and remains open 14 hours a day between 8am and 10pm.

The Trust is asking GPs not to refer Children to the County Hospital A&E during this time. The Trust is advising parent that Children should not be brought to County Hospital as walk-in patients and that those with minor illnesses and injuries should use primary care services, such as their GP or community pharmacists. Families who believe their children need emergency (A&E) attention are being advised they should dial 999 for an ambulance. Ambulances will always take children to the most appropriate hospital to treat their condition.

The County Hospital Children’s Emergency Centre sees around 30 children a day. If a sick child is brought to A&E at County Hospital, staff will care for them until they can now arrange their transfer to another hospital. In the case of minor injuries or illnesses staff will assess them and direct them to the most appropriate place to receive care. The Trust will continue to provide all children's outpatients clinics and nurse-led care for those with chronic or long term conditions.

The unique Children’s Emergency Centre service was created in May 2015 as part of the three year integration of the Trust. However, the clinical model implemented as part of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust Special Administrator recommendations has been deemed unviable at the current time following a number of safety concerns highlighted in a draft report by the West Midlands Quality Review Service (WMQRS). These relate to the lack of sufficient numbers of staff with very specific levels of paediatric and anaesthetic training, including resuscitation and life-support competencies.

Senior clinicians have now spoken with staff in detail, and carried out a thorough review of the training received as well as both competence and confidence levels around the issues highlighted. It has become apparent that concerns raised by WMQRS cannot be addressed in the short term which is why the UHNM have temporarily suspended the service. Nationally the standards for what is considered safe care in A&E paediatric care have risen over the last twelve months, and the WMQRS findings reflect this.  

I fully appreciate the impact these temporary changes will have on families in Stafford and the surrounding area, and I understand that people will be very concerned about this news. However, we cannot and will not continue to deliver services without the confidence that those services are safe. I want to thank my fellow clinical colleagues for reviewing the situation and for their advice, which has led to us taking this difficult short-term decision. This allows us the space to examine future options for safe children’s services at County Hospital with input from our staff, regulators and partners.

Local commissioners have been briefed and have asked the Trust to provide them with a detailed plan and timescale for next steps as a matter of urgency. This will be shared with the public and other stakeholders as soon as it is available.