Two weeks ago I visited the Accident & Emergency department and Women’s and Children Centre at Princess Royal Hospital in Telford, to see first-hand how SaTH were responding to the recent CQC report, which identified clear improvements required to continue to ensure patient safety. While I was there the Trust was placed in Special Measures by NHS Improvement, but it has reacted well, seeing it as an opportunity to receive support from the wider NHS.
It was clear the Trust is already working hard to put in place additional measures to safeguard patients. I was impressed to see the new Urgent Care Centre on the point of opening following a £3m investment. Staff were under pressure and concerned about the prospect of overnight closure of the A&E, which had been put forward by the Trust given the lack of qualified clinical staff in Shropshire to sustain two full A&E departments.
So it came as a particular relief last week to staff, patients and the whole community served by the Princess Royal Hospital, when SaTH announced that senior management have succeeded in recruiting enough experienced clinicians to allow the Trust to keep the A&E open at night.
They have recruited three A&E consultants, who will take up their posts over the next two months, and 11 new middle grade doctors - taking the total number to 20, the highest number for seven years. In addition, 15 new specialist nurses will help maintain staff rotas and relieve pressure on staffing needs for this winter.
This new staffing boost means the A&E will not close overnight, and represents a first positive step on the journey out of Special Measures, as confirmed to me by the new Health Minister in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
This is excellent news for Shropshire, but the Trust cannot now take their foot off the pedal – there must be a robust plan to ensure staffing remains at a safe level for the future.
I remain convinced the long term solution is to proceed with the unprecedented capital investment of £312m in Shropshire’s healthcare, which will provide state of the art facilities for Shropshire and Telford patients - and importantly encourage more doctors and nurses in difficult-to-recruit specialities, such as emergency medicine, to see our area as a sound long term choice to live and work.