Hinchingbrooke Hospital says it has no plans to close or downgrade its A&E department after union claims

Hinchingbrooke Hospital's A&E department

Hinchingbrooke Hospital's A&E department - Credit: Archant

The trust that runs Hinchingbrooke Hospital has confirmed there are no plans to close or downgrade the hospital’s accident and emergency department.

Senior staff were forced to issue a denial after union representatives put out a statement on Thursday claiming there were plans to "downgrade" Hinchingbrooke's A&E department, which they said would "all but guarantee complete closure".

Dr Kanchan Rege, medical director at North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust (NWAFT), which runs Hinchingbrooke Hospital, told the Hunts Post: "It is wrong to suggest that the Emergency Department is under threat of being downgraded, or even closed, particularly as we are seeing a growth in demand for emergency care. Last month we saw 14.5 per cent more attendances than in August 2018, and we are proud of our emergency teams who have been maintaining a strong performance against the four-hour waiting time standard.

Adding: "We are currently working on proposals to improve the facilities within our urgent care services on the Hinchingbrooke site, thanks to £25.5m funding from the Department of Health."

Campaigners and members of the public have raised fears in the past that the merger of Hinchingbrooke with the larger city hospitals could mean the lost of the A&E department in Huntingdon.

But the trust has told the Health Service Journal: "Hinchingbrooke Hospital's A&E is a 24/7 type 1 service. It is led at all times by an emergency consultant. The trust's clinical strategy published in March 2018 refers to the 2016 STP plan when there were concerns over recruitment challenges. Since the merger and development of the new trust, we have successfully recruited senior medical and nursing staff specialising in accident and emergency services. We are committed to running a 24/7 type 1 service at Hinchingbrooke Hospital for the people of Huntingdonshire and the surrounding areas."

The hospital is, however, likely to undergo a major reorganisation to its stroke/neuro and orthopaedic trauma services, a report published in July makes clear.

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Work is taking place under the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group's Fit for the Future programme which could see Hinchingbrooke lose its trauma case load to Peterborough City and Addenbrooke's hospitals.

In a paper presented to a board meeting of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) in July, Caroline Walker, chief executive of the NWAFT, said trauma patients occupy just under 10 per cent of hospital beds.

She went on the say the move would "constitute "a significant shift" in current provision and would require public consultation.

The trust's view is part of a major reorganisation that would see Hinchingbrooke cater for more planned surgeries, with the non-planned (trauma) cases going elsewhere.

The paper states: "The volume and case mix of trauma work does not meet the expected minimum volumes recommended nationally to maintain standards of excellence, nor does it financially justify the maintenance of different levels of 24/7 orthopaedic rota required in order to maintain a safe service."

The trust is also progressing with plans which would see a higher number of stroke and neuro-rehabilitation patients cared for at Hinchingbrooke while those patients in the acute stage would be treated elsewhere.