Fears for patients as doctors pull out of urgent care centre

PROTEST: Chorley Hospital A&E campaigners at Chorley FC on Saturday.
PROTEST: Chorley Hospital A&E campaigners at Chorley FC on Saturday.

Staffing woes at one county hospital have increased with the news that two local GP providers have pulled out of the Urgent Care Centre.

The Urgent Care Centre at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital replaced the town’s A&E department, which closed in April due to staff shortages.

We are very concerned that the CCG does not realise the consequences of its actions.

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The centre, which operates between 8am and 8pm, can treat minor injuries and until now has been partially staffed by GPs provided by two local groups, Chorley Medics and Preston Primary Care Centre Ltd. The groups – which also provide out-of-hours GP care – had put in a bid for a permanent urgent care service, but the bid was instead awarded to a private company based in Manchester.

Now Preston Primary Care Centre has stopped providing staff for the centre, and Chorley Medics has moved out of the Unit.

Rachel Hobson, out-of-hours manager at Chorley Medics, said: “Chorley Medics Ltd is disappointed with the decision made by Chorley and South Ribble Clinical Commissioning Group to award the Integrated Urgent Care Centre contract, which incorporates the current out of hours contract, to a provider outside the area. We were involved in a joint bid for the service.

“We, and other local providers, were asked earlier in the year, when A&E closed, to move to the hospital and support Lancashire Teaching Hospitals to run an Urgent Care Centre in its place; this we did with only five days’ notice, and the Centre has been running very well since then.

“Following the CCG tendering decision, other providers have withdrawn key staff from the Urgent Care Centre, and, after carefully considering the implications for our patients and staff, we have decided to move back to our purpose-built centre in Euxton, to best manage our service until the new provider takes over.”

Chorley Medics Ltd will still provide GPs for the Chorley centre on an ad hoc basis, if needed.

Ribbleton GP Richard Parry, the chairman of Preston Primary Care Centre, last week raised concerns about the contract going to a private firm, saying that he did not believe the service could be provided properly on the budget set by the Clinical Commissioning Group. He said: “We believe that they will struggle to provide an adequate service as the budget is too small to provide sufficient staff.

He added: “Unfortunately the uncertainty caused by the bid process has caused staffing difficulty at PPCC. We lost our manager, and have also lost some of our nurse practitioners. This situation will get worse after the CCG decision not to support us. We have had to pull out of Chorley as we do not have staff to cover it.

“We are very concerned that the CCG does not realise the consequences of its actions.”

A spokesman for Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Appropriate staffing arrangements have been made by Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust to ensure the current urgent care centre service at Chorley & South Ribble Hospital can be maintained until there are sufficient doctors to reinstate the emergency department. The urgent care centre will continue to provide safe and effective services for local patients between 8am and 8pm, seven days a week.”