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Ambulance service told not to take children to A&E due to staff shortages

An ambulance service has been instructed not to take children to an under-pressure A&E department as part of emergency measures being taken due to a shortage of junior doctors.

West Midlands Ambulance Service has said it has been instructed to avoid taking children to Redditch’s Alexandra hospital, and instead take them to Worcestershire Royal Hospital.

The trust said it had been unable to attract doctors to fill vacant posts left as a result of the junior doctor shortage.

It follows a series of problems faced by under-pressure trusts, with CCGs across England instructing GPs to avoiding referring to some hospitals, or referring at all in one case.

A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman said: ‘Worcestershire Royal Hospitals has asked us not to take any patients under the age of 16 years to the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch as of Wednesday 7 September.

‘As a result, we will take all such patients, whatever their condition, to the nearest alternative A&E department that has necessary paediatric services available.’

The trust moved to play down the significance of the changes, stressing that ‘only those children who have a life-threatening condition, need to stay overnight in hospital or need to see a specialist paediatrician, will see their care from September delivered at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital’.

Dr Andrew Short, the trust’s interim chief medical officer and senior consultant paediatrician, said: ‘This is not a decision we have taken lightly and we recognise that this will for some be a cause of concern.

‘This has now reached a critical point and the trust regrettably has to take the difficult decision to temporarily move to centralise inpatient paediatric beds on to one site at Worcestershire Royal Hospital.’

Two extra ambulances have been put in service to ensure that ‘no extra pressure is put onto the system’, said the trust.

Dr Richard Davies, speaking on behalf of Worcestershire’s three CCGs, said: ‘We have known for some time that the paediatric service has been fragile at Alexandra Hospital but we had hoped that the trust could keep it going until the public consultation on the acute services review had taken place. However, this is no longer possible.

‘The trust’s decision to temporarily transfer inpatient paediatric care is therefore understandable and reasonable.’

This is not the first trust to close its children’s A&E services, with University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust stopping services at County Hospital in Stafford because they were ‘not currently clinically safe’.

Pulse reported this week that GPs in Kent were being instructed to only use the ambulance service when ‘clinically appropriate’ as the service was struggling to cope with demand.

Elsewhere, GPs in Hertfordshire have been told to refer patients to private hospitals in a bid to control soaring waiting times.