Fears over too many temporary doctors sparks NHS review
MEDICAL staffing is under review across North Staffordshire's five community hospitals amid fears there are too many temporary doctors.
Experts have spent weeks analysing GP cover at Leek Moorlands, Burslem's Haywood, Cheadle, Bradwell and Longton Cottage hospitals.
Their recommendations are expected to be revealed at an NHS meeting next month.
The network of hospitals is key to providing rehabilitation care for patients who have finished treatment at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire but are not well enough to go home.
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Some also have outpatients, minor injuries and walk-in services, but only the wards are part of the review.
A campaign group today criticised the lack of public consultation over the move which they say has "come out of the blue".
They vowed to monitor the changes closely to ensure no services at the centres would be put under threat.
But Ian Syme, co-ordinator of North Staffordshire Healthwatch, pictured right, said: "Our network of community hospitals is unique and has been hard fought for.
"We are suspicious of any changes, particularly if they haven't gone out to full consultation. But if they mean a safer, high-quality service delivered by a strong team of nurse practitioners, they deserve our support."
The plans are being led by the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust.
Its officials say it inherited a legacy of locum doctors on temporary contracts when it took over the running of the community hospitals from the area's two primary care trusts last September.
They also admit some changes the trust has brought in have unsettled staff.
It has led to a union-led staff survey to help tackle any problems.
And the review has already triggered concerns at Leek Moorlands Hospital and trust leaders are to address Tuesday's meeting of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council's health scrutiny panel to try to reassure members.
Council leader Sybil Ralphs has already held private talks with NHS trust chairman Professor Nigel Ratcliffe.
She said: "Our priority is to work with partners to improve health – that's why I wanted the meeting urgently following recent news about staffing issues at the hospital.
"But I was mightily reassured by what he told me."
Former Staffordshire Moorlands Labour MP Charlotte Atkins was also due to ask seven questions on the issue at today's public board meeting of the trust's directors in Tamworth.
The independent review is being headed by Dr David Carson – a national expert in emergency medicine – and was commissioned by both the trust and the new North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which is to take over funding the NHS from primary care trusts (PCTs).
A trust spokesman said: "When the trust was formed a number of doctors were engaged on temporary contracts.
"It was, and is, recognised by the trust and the CCG that there is a need to appoint doctors on a permanent basis.
"The review will best assess the hospitals' ongoing medical and professional staffing requirements.
"In light of this, one GP at Leek has chosen not to seek an extension to their temporary contract while another has agreed to continue working until permanent appointments are made."