A cash-strapped Doncaster health trust has suspended emergency surgery services at one of its hospitals due to staff shortages.
Patients requiring emergency surgery at Bassetlaw Hospital will be transferred to Doncaster Royal Infirmary as the trust tries to get to grips with a staff crisis.
A spokesman for Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, DBH, said the move would affect around 10 to 14 patients a week.
All surgical patients presenting at Bassetlaw Emergency Department will be assessed by a senior surgical doctor and patients who require immediate, surgical, hospital care will be transferred to Doncaster Royal Infirmary.
David Purdue, chief operating officer at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals, said: “Patient safety is our number one priority and to ensure it is not compromised we are currently actively managing emergency surgical admissions at Bassetlaw Hospital.”
“Local treatment will continue to be available at Bassetlaw for non-urgent surgical patients and the number of elective surgical operations will increase at Bassetlaw Hospital as a result of the change in the service model.
“The change has taken place as there is limited availability of doctors for the out-of-hours rota. We have been trying to recruit to the positions for some time, and despite our best efforts those recruitment drives have been unsuccessful.”
The move comes after the trust blamed ‘bad behaviour’ from neighbouring trusts in breaking agency spending caps for its own staff shortages.
DBH has revealed that staff who ‘could and perhaps should be working locally’ are choosing to work for higher ‘cap-breaking rates’ elsewhere in the region.
The trust, which has raised the issue with health care watchdog NHS Improvement, has meanwhile recorded a total financial deficit of £46.8m for 2015/16.
The shortfall is largely the result of a financial misreporting scandal as well as a drop in the value of trust buildings.
In a report to the trust’s board, Mike Pinkerton, DBH chief executive, said: “All trusts are obliged to work within the rules as now set and our adherence to those rules is in a sense therefore independent to our overall financial position and the whole basis is that all trusts stick to the rules and the policy will fail if we do not, so bad behaviour elsewhere should not, at least in the short term, encourage us to not comply with the requirements set for us.”
He said that the difficulty is that trusts can break the agency cap if they justify it on patient safety grounds, arguing that such circumstances are ‘subjective and context dependent.’
Mr Pinkerton, who admitted that DBH has breached the cap but only where ‘safety concerns warranted it,’ added: “There is a key issue that staff that could and perhaps should be working locally are choosing to work for higher and cap breaking rates of pay elsewhere.
“As staff enter locum work often for the purpose of having higher wages with limited ongoing responsibilities, this is hardly surprising behaviour from locum staff, who will follow the market.”
Trust bosses say they are continuing to work with NHS Improvement to improve its financial position.