I attended a meeting of Bexley council’s Health and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee this evening. The main part of the meeting was the questioning of the South London Healthcare NHS trust about their plans to close Queen Mary’s Hospital A&E department at night.
Since the downgrading of services was announced the hospital has struggled to recruit and retain staff, this has caused difficulties with staffing levels in A&E. The senior management team have decided to use a loophole which allows them to close the A&E department at nights as a “temporary” measure to maintain patient safety. The committee were not happy about this and wanted answers.
The answers that were given were far from adequate. It turns out that this “temporary” measure is likely to be permanent, indeed it sounded as though very little real effort had been made to look at any alternatives.
It also transpired that doctors who were being interviewed many months ago had pulled out of the interviews when they heard that the hospital faced cuts. I was therefore surprised to hear that they were surprised at the staffing problems that they now face.
This whole episode points to a catastrophic failure to plan ahead at local management level and an appalling undermining of the front line NHS staff by the government.