Pontefract hospital’s army approach ‘worrying’

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Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has described a move by a hospital in her constituency to approach the army for help to restore a 24-hour emergency service as “deeply worrying”.

The A&E department at Pontefract Hospital was closed at night last November after the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust failed to recruit enough doctors to staff it properly.

Now the trust has told local councillors it is asking the military whether army medics could help out.

The approach follows a similar move by a trust in Staffordshire last year.

Ms Cooper, who is MP for Pontefract and Castleford, said: “The Government needs to explain how it has come to this, with two NHS hospital trusts now needing help from the army to keep services open.

“Twelve thousand people have signed our petition to get Pontefract A&E re-opened and we want to see action by Mid Yorkshire Trust to deliver on their promises to local people.

“So clearly, action which brings additional doctors into Pontefract to re-open services is important and welcome.

“Mid Yorkshire Trust have been advised by outside experts to seek help from the Army Medical Service as Mid Staffordshire has done in order to keep their A&E services open 24 hours.

“But everyone recognises the priority for the Army Medical Service must be the lives and the health of our soldiers and army personnel and this is clearly not a long-term solution.

“The Trust also needs to pursue other avenues to get more doctors in place.

“But it is deeply worrying that two hospitals have now had to seek help from the army because of the shortage of doctors and the Government needs to explain urgently why they have allowed it to come to this and what action ministers will take to deliver the doctors we need.”

The department has been closed from 10pm to 8am each day since November - a move which has been widely criticised by people in the Pontefract area.

Betty Rhodes, chairman of Wakefield Council’s social care and health scrutiny committee, said she was told at a meeting yesterday.

She told BBC Radio 5 Live: “This was a big surprise to everybody.”

She said the problem at Pontefract was a difficulty in recruiting doctors in middle grades.

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