ASKING NURSES to work extra shifts casts doubt on the safety of plans to downgrade A&E at Dewsbury District Hospital, a union boss has claimed.
Unison regional organiser Jim Bell spoke out after the Mid-Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust wrote to nurses asking them to work three extra shifts a month.
The aim is to deal with backlogs of patients waiting at the trust’s three hospitals, including Dewsbury.
Those volunteering for the scheme, which started last Monday, would be paid overtime and a bonus of £200.
Extra shifts are also on offer to clinical support assistants who take blood samples from patients to be tested.
Mr Bell, who dismissed overtime and cash bonuses for nurses as a ‘bribe’, was scathing of the trust’s plan to downgrade A&E at Dewsbury.
He said: “If Pinderfields is struggling to cope now, how much worse will it be if A&E at Dewsbury is downgraded?
“The trust admitted their A&Es were among the busiest in country in early January and the situation doesn’t seem to be getting better.”
Dewsbury’s A&E could be reduced to a minor injuries unit under trust plans being considered by the Government.
Maternity care would be cut to a midwife-led service but Dewsbury would gain new specialisms for planned surgery.
An independent panel is expected to make its decision on the downgrading plan by no later than Wednesday next week.
An internal email seen by The Press, which outlines measures to deal with the A&E crisis, shows the situation now is no better than last month.
NHS England figures showed Mid-Yorkshire had the fifth busiest A&Es nationally in the week ending February 2.
A staff circular said: “We are facing significant demands on our inpatient capacity and limited number of discharges.
“...there are high numbers of people awaiting admission across our sites and demand on our emergency departments remains high.”
It added various other initiatives were taken in the week up to last Friday to reduce delays trust-wide.
• More porters and transport crews made available;
• Extra clinicians for A&Es and the acute and surgical assessment units;
• Asking community care agencies to help discharge patients.
A team has also been set up to manage the crisis, with top staff leaving their jobs until March to focus on A&E backlogs.
These include deputy chief operating officer Neil Clark - who is seconded to Dewsbury along with trust estates manager Kevin Oxley.
The hit-squad will look at every part of each patient’s journey through A&E to hopefully stop unnecessary delays.
It is believed better co-ordination of things like discharge planning, portering and transport will get the backlog down.
A separate email, from Mid-Yorkshire chief executive Stephen Eames, sets out the reasons for this.
He wrote: “... over the past few weeks more people than we would like have experienced delays, especially if they needed to be admitted.
“... usually (it is) a result of people who are ready to go home being unable to do so because of delays in coordinating their care or discharge.”
He added despite this 95 per cent of patients over the last year were seen, treated and then discharged or admitted in less than four hours.
‘Winter weather’ to blame for hospital backlogs
HEALTH chiefs blamed winter weather for the crisis that has gripped hospital A&E units since January. The Mid-Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust is bringing in measures to deal with a backlog of patients at sites including Dewsbury.
Medical director Richard Jenkins said: “As with NHS services across the country, we see extra demands on our services during the winter period.
“The measures we have taken are designed to ensure we provide the safest patient care during this time.”
A decision on downgrading Dewsbury's A&E to a minor injuries unit could be made by Wednesday.
Dr Jenkins insists these proposals are safe and added: “They are designed to reduce demand on emergency departments.
“It will ensure more patients can be cared for closer to home, therefore reducing the need for a hospital stay. This should also help to address demand on our emergency services during future winters.”