Survey reveals fears over A&E downgrade

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Safety fears over the possible downgrading of Pontefract’s A&E department have been raised in a report by the district’s health and social care watchdog.

People who took part in a study by Healthwatch Wakefield pleaded with NHS bosses to maintain 24-7 emergency care in the town - a sign that a proposed shake-up of services faces strong public opposition.

More than 2,000 people took part in the survey, launched after NHS Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) put the future of the department under review.

It could be turned into an urgent care centre and the most serious emergency patients transferred to Pinderfields Hospital after next March. It follows a similar downgrade of Dewsbury’s A&E under changes at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust.

The Healthwatch report said: “The largest theme by far was the plea for Pontefract Hospital A&E to remain open to serve the local population.”

People wanted more facilities at Pontefract Hospital and were concerned that the site was not being used to its full capacity.

The report said: “They said it needs more beds, more staff and it needs more facilities to serve the local community.”

People told Healthwatch of problems getting home after they had been transferred from Pontefract Hospital to Pinderfields.

Healthwatch also found that: “There is widespread confusion over what services Pontefract Hospital currently provides.”

Wakefield CCG is currently extending evening and weekend access to GP appointments to help ease the pressure on busy A&E departments.

A CCG spokesman said: “The findings from the engagement have confirmed that local people are unclear about where to go for urgent health care.

“This is why we are looking at how we can help people make the right choices according to their needs, and how the service could be better used to meet demand alongside other local health care improvements.”

Currently, Pontefract A&E is staffed by Mid Yorkshire doctors and nurses between 8am and 10pm.

Overnight it is staffed by GPs and specialist nurses.

NHS bosses have questioned whether that will be the best use of resources after the contract to run the current Pontefract A&E service ends next March.