Wigan Infirmary would be impacted if plans for a regional hospital shake-up results in Chorley A&E shutting, a borough NHS boss has said.
Andrew Foster, chief executive of Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust, said the negative effect on the town’s A&E was felt when Chorley temporarily closed accident and emergency due to a shortage of doctors.
The facility just north of the borough shutting its doors for good is one of the potential outcomes of a consultation planned for early next year.
The public will be asked to comment on a proposal to have a single A&E unit serving the Central Lancashire area.
Mr Foster said: “Should this process lead to a closure of the Chorley A&E department, it would certainly have some impact on Wigan Infirmary’s A&E department.
“We know this because during the temporary closure of Chorley A&E, from April 2016 to January 2017, the Wigan Infirmary A&E department saw an average of around eight extra attendances and two admissions per day from patients who previously would have gone to Chorley.
“Whilst these numbers represent only a small increase of around three per cent, our system can be very busy, particularly so in the winter months.”
The proposals which could have a knock on effect for Wigan are the culmination of a two-year project to reorganise NHS services across Preston, Chorley and South Ribble.
It is likely a ring-fenced facility or pre-planned procedures and treatment would be set up to reduce the risk of operations being cancelled when there is an influx of emergency cases.
And two urgent care centres would continue to operate in the area to see patients with minor injuries and illnesses.
The accident and emergency department at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital has been operating for 12 hours a day for over 18 months.
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust currently has vacancy rates ranging from 10 to 23 percent across all grades of doctor employed at its two hospital sites. The overall vacancy rate among doctors stands at over 13 percent.
The trust’s medical director Dr Geraldine Skailes denied there was little point in asking the public for its say if the overarching plan had already been decided.
“There will be a number of different options that we can present to the public for consideration,” Dr. Skailes said.
“We know that at the moment we are running two acute hospitals and are duplicating a number of our services across the two sites.
“The new model will allow a degree of consolidation so we have one workforce that is able to concentrate on providing that high quality care in one place.”
NHS bosses were told by Wigan hospital chiefs that downgrading Chorley Hospital’s A&E to an urgent care centre put pressure on the system in the borough.
Attendance from outside the Wigan area reached one of its highest rates in recent years during April 2017, when Chorley A&E was shut. Numbers only started to go down slightly from last October.
WWL has also had an average of 37 beds used by out-of-area patients during 2017-18 and so far in 2018-19, compared to 28 in the two years before Chorley A&E closed.