Row over A&E staff

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AN urgent review is under way at Wigan Infirmary after a report revealed a staffing shortage at its accident and emergency department.

Health bosses launched the probe following a BBC investigation which wrongly claimed that Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) had four more staff than was necessary to run the department.

However, bosses at Wigan Infirmary say a Freedom of Information request was misleading and that they do not have enough staff members and are currently reviewing the issue as a major priority. The BBC report claimed that one trust (Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust) was 129 staff short of the adequate number to run its A&E department, which critics say is impossible as it would cease to function as a department. Hospital officials say the wording of the FOI request was ambiguous and say it did not take into account that many trusts use locums, bank and agency staff to fill gaps.

Health chiefs said they are, in fact, at least four members of staff down.

Fiona Noden, Director of Operations and Performance at WWL, said: “We can confirm that we actually refute the BBC table which indicates that WWL has a surplus of four staff in our accident and emergency Department.

“When we have reviewed the Freedom of Information Act response it shows that at the time of the request we actually had a shortfall of four established staff in the department.

“We are also about to embark on a staffing review in the department to ensure that we have the correct staff with the correct skills.”

The Department of Health said A&E staffing was an ongoing problem, but action was being taken.

A&E services came under extreme pressure last winter and the Government’s four-hour waiting time target was regularly breached. This was partly as a result of more patients coming through the door, but also because of problems recruiting staff.

Leigh MP and shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said cuts to council social care services had led to an increase in elderly patients turning up at to hospitals, and A&E departments had come under pressure because of difficulties with the new 111 telephone advice service and reductions in nursing jobs.

He said: “What I’m saying to the Government is they must urgently get a grip on the underlying causes of this pressure and particularly ensure that all hospitals in England have enough staff to provide safe care.”