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.
Children should not be brought to County Hospital as walk-in patients. Children 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 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. From today, if a sick child is brought to A&E at County Hospital, staff will care for them until they can 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 we 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.
Liz Rix, Chief Nurse and Acting Deputy Chief Executive, said: "I fully appreciate the impact these temporary changes will have on families in Stafford and the surrounding area, and 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."
Dr Ann Marie Morris, Clinical Director and Emergency Medicine Consultant, said: "I want to reassure parents that we have taken this decision in the best interests of children. Whilst it is regrettable that some children may have to travel further for care, our first priority has to be providing a safe clinical service. People view the Children's Emergency Centre as a safety net, but this is only the case when the right number of professionally trained experienced staff are in place at all times. This is not currently the case, and as we cannot resolve this in the short-term the only responsible course of action we can take is to suspend the service."
Local commissioners and Member of Parliament for Stafford Jeremy Lefroy MP have now 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.