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Staff shortage forces closure

Serious staff shortages have forced a London hospital to recommend closure of its emergency and maternity departments because of fears over public safety.

Subject to approval by the Trust Board this week (September 29), the A&E department at Queen Mary’s, Sidcup in south east London will close in late November and the maternity unit will close in mid-December because the hospital does not have enough middle and junior grade doctors or midwives to cope during the winter months.

Queen Mary´s Sidcup is the latest in a wave of hospitals forced to shut emergency and maternity units because of staffing problems.

According to reports, at least six maternity units have closed their doors permanently in the last year and permanent closures of A and E departments have been announced at a further two hospitals. Other hospitals are being forced to restrict the opening hours of their minor injuries units because there are not enough staff.

Commenting on St Mary´s Sidcup, south London Healthcare NHS Trust´s chief executive Dr Chris Streather said: ‘A clinical safety review carried out by independent senior clinicians commissioned by NHS London across all of our sites, and supported by the Trust’s medical and nursing directors, has concluded that there are significant safety risks, particularly in regard to a serious shortage of emergency medicine middle and junior grade doctors, and midwives.

‘We can’t take a risk that this situation would become unsustainable during the winter months.’