Politically Speaking - CEC County Hospital

Politically Speaking - Staffordshire Newsletter 31/08/16

The Children’s Emergency Centre (CEC) at County Hospital was one of the core elements of the Trust Special Administrator’s (TSA) proposals for Stafford. Together with paediatric ‘hot clinics’ and outpatients, it provides a service for our children and young people which – while not as comprehensive as the previous paediatric service – is appreciated, judging by the many positive comments I have had from constituents since it started in May 2015.

So when the University Hospital of the North Midlands Trust suddenly announced last Thursday that the CEC was being temporarily suspended due to safety concerns, it was a shock. According to the Trust, they did not have sufficient staff available who were trained to the higher Royal College standards which have recently been introduced.

The TSA’s proposal was clear (Final report Dec 2013 Page 21 Recommendation 7): “A Paediatric Assessment Unit will remain in Stafford to provide children with local access to an urgent assessment. The service will be provided 14/7 and will be a function of the proposed A&E service and led by paediatric trained A&E doctors. Where paediatrician advice is needed it will be obtained either from the on-call team at a larger hospital or from the on-site paediatrician.” The proposal was accepted by the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, on 26th February 2014.

I met the Medical Director of the Trust and the Head of the Emergency Department last Thursday and said that I and our community expected the necessary training to be carried out and the CEC to be back in service without delay. I have since written to the Trust with a list of detailed questions regarding both the decision to suspend the service and the plans to reinstate it. I will meet the Acting Chief Executive of the Trust this week to follow up these questions.

I have also written to the Prime Minister and Health Secretary, pointing out how important it is to have children’s services which are accessible to all, not just those in major centres of population. What benefit is there in having services which become increasingly inaccessible to large parts of the population, especially those in our towns and rural areas?

In addition, it must the responsibility of the Government and professions to ensure that any tightening of standards is coupled with an immediate investment in the additional training necessary to meet them. It makes no sense to bring in stricter standards which NHS staff are unable meet – and therefore to suspend vital services.

Many constituents have already written to me about the CEC. Please be assured that I will do everything I can to see this service restored as soon as possible.