Hospitals in Staffordshire have gained notoriety for all the wrong reasons in recent months and it appears that things are set to go from bad to worse as the administrators placed in charge of the running of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust have suggested that it be closed down.
The Department of Health placed the trust under administration earlier this year and administrators have now released a report stating that there is no other option but to dissolve the Cannock Chase and Stafford Hospitals.
It became clear that there were serious issues at the Trust when the Francis Inquiry discovered that abusive and neglectful behaviour had become endemic at the hospitals in the Trust, resulting in numerous avoidable deaths. Aside from the fact that patients were being treated terribly and placed at risk, it was found that the trust was on the verge of financial ruin with a budget deficit forecast to exceed £20m in 2014.
These findings led to the trust being placed in the hands of administrators who have concluded that from both a healthcare and a financial point of view, the Trust must be wound down or “significantly changed” in the interests of patient safety.
As it stands, 276,000 patients are served by the Mid Staffordshire Trust meaning that many towns and villages in Staffordshire will be affected by the decision. It has been suggested that Stafford Hospital should fall under the jurisdiction of the University Hospital of North Staffordshire in Stoke-on-Trent and the Royal Wolverhampton Trust should take over Cannock Hospital.
This will have significant consequences for the services offered. Stafford Hospital despite retaining its assessment capability would surrender the following services which would move to Stoke-on-Trent:
• Trauma care
• Paediatric services
• Impatient services
• Maternity unit
• Neonatal services
A t the insistence of administrators, the A & E department – which is closed for 10 hours at night – would not be cut further.
The Trust Special Administrators have predicted that 9 in 10 patients who are now using services at the two hospitals will continue to do so even after the changes, nevertheless the news is likely to alarm residents in mid Staffordshire.
Despite the shocking revelations about substandard care, Staffordshire residents have rallied behind the Trust. This Spring 50,000 locals took to the town centre to protest against proposals to cut services and a petition also went round in an attempt to prevent downgrades. Another campaign saw locals place several hundred balloons around the area to demonstrate the weight of public support for the Trust. From the point of view of local people it would be unfair for them to miss out on important health services because of the failures of hospital managers.
The proposals of the TSA will now be considered during a public consultation period at the end of which Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will make a final decision.
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