Chorley Hospital’s A&E department is to close from Monday, it has been confirmed.
The Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust has been struggling for some time to recruit enough people to staff the Accident & Emergency department at both Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals.
Staff were told this afternoon that from Monday the A&E department at Chorley will be downgraded to an Urgent Care Centre, which can treat minor injuries and illness, but not life-threatening situations.
North West Ambulance Service was also informed that from Monday ambulances will not be able to take urgent cases to Chorley.
The news has been met with fury from locals and health unions, many of whom blamed government funding cuts.
A Hospitals Trust spokesman said: “It is not possible to staff the rotas after 18 April, and there are no other safe options for delivering care – so the emergency department at Chorley will be temporarily replaced by an urgent care service until the staffing crisis is resolved.
“The urgent care service will be provided at the urgent care centre, at Chorley & South Ribble Hospital.
“The service will be provided by a combination of emergency department consultants, nurse practitioners, GPs, nurses and healthcare assistants.
“The vast majority of people who currently attend the emergency department at Chorley have conditions that can be treated safely and appropriately by an urgent care centre.
“Additionally from Monday 999 ambulances will take patients to Royal Preston Hospital or other nearest appropriate hospital rather than Chorley, and patients who attend Chorley themselves, but who need to be admitted, or need specialist services will be transferred to Preston for assessment.”
UNISON Branch Secretary Pete Smith said: “This is a sad and worrying day for people in Chorley. The down-grading of the A&E department is not due to any reduction in the needs of the local community. It is a consequence of decisions taken by the Conservative Government to starve the NHS of adequate resources.
“For years the share of national income spent on our NHS has been falling. This has resulted in increasing pressures on staff – and now the recruitment problems are so bad that the A&E can no longer function.
“Jeremy Hunt should come to Chorley to see how his Government’s underinvestment is in danger of wrecking our NHS.”
Eveing Post reader Catherine Woods commented: “This is awful news. Chorley A&E department were great with my 2-year-old when she had pneumonia. How are we going to get seen by a doctor when you can never get an appointment for weeks?”
Sandra Pilkington added: “This is dreadful news. No wonder A&Es are overwhelmed when smaller ones are closing and everything is being directed to a few central ones! This will put huge pressure on Preston.”
North West Ambulance Service’s Unite rep Neil Cosgrove said: “From an ambulance point of view this will have a massive impact. We will be greatly increasing our travel time as we will be taking patients instead to Preston, Blackburn or Wigan if they need A&E care.
“We are really struggling already and this will make things much worse. The government has a lot to answer for for the way they have hacked away at the NHS.
“Our management at NWAS have done all they can, but this is out of their hands.”