MPs slam A&Es for lack of consultant cover
CRITICISM has been made of plans by the NHS to ease the pressure on A&E facilities.
Just 17 per cent of hospitals had the recommended level of consultant cover, according MPs in the Health Select Committee.
It comes as Cheltenham General Hospital prepares to reduce cover between 8pm and 8am from next week because of a lack of specialist staff.
Recruitment problems mean Gloucestershire is served by only 11 elite emergency department consultants.
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The county's two acute care hospitals, Gloucestershire Royal and Cheltenham General, should have 20 consultant posts filled.
The cross-party group has now questioned whether the NHS will be ready to deal with problems next winter.
The MPs said staffing issues and rising attendances were among the main causes of the problems.
According to figures, there are not enough doctors in training to fill consultant posts until 2020 across the UK.
A leading GP in the county, who has not been named, said many factors played a part in getting the right numbers in specialities, including emergency cover.
And he insisted it was not just the appeal of the job, or perceived lack of it, by newly-qualified doctors and students that caused the difficulties.
"Most specialities are a case of feast or famine," he said.
"Sometimes the NHS doesn't plan what it will need in five years time well.
"Some of it may be down to some people saying it's a disaster area but there's geographical reasons too."
A Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spokeswoman said, nationally, recruitment into emergency medicine remained "extremely challenging" at both consultant and middle grade levels.
The trust currently has 11 full-time emergency department consultant posts but is continuing to recruit.
Emergency medicine consultant Dr Tom Llewellyn said: "Our priority is to ensure that the sickest patients are seen by very skilled specialist staff when they need to be.
"The proposals for change to night time services at Cheltenham were developed for service quality and safety related reasons, which includes the availability of experienced emergency medicine doctors.
"With this change, the vast majority of patients will continue to access services in the way they do now."