Why is Bassetlaw losing Emergency Surgery?

by Leon Duveen on 11 May, 2016

Bassetlaw HospitalLike many people in Bassetlaw, I was concerned to read that Bassetlaw Hospital would no longer be accepting Emergency Surgical Admissions and that these patients would be sent on to Doncaster instead.

Rather than rely on what was in the media, I wrote o Mike Pinkerton, Chief Executive of Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospitals to express my concerns and ask the reason for this withdrawal of service from Bassetlaw.  Here is part of Mr Pinkerton’s response:

Thanks for your email and I appreciate the concerns but also your recognition that we have to provide the safest service possible with what staff we have available. This would be regarded as a temporary measure, however these is no immediate prospect of us being able to recruit the number of doctors required to maintain the previous service. In addition to the measures you may have heard of, we are running twice daily consultant led “hot clinics” on site to minimise the need for transfers. We are also increasing the numbers and complexity of elective surgical cases to be conducted at Bassetlaw (currently conducted at Doncaster) and we expect in a short period that in fact the net position to be an increase in patients treated at Bassetlaw and an overall reduction in Bassetlaw patients treated at Doncaster.

I have also been invited to have a fuller briefing from the Trust on the issue which I am in the process of arranging.  I will report back here when I know more.


I do not want to jump to conclusions & nor do I wish to put words into Mr Pinkerton’s mouth but the cause of this change in service seems to be that the Trust is unable to recruit enough Doctors & other healthcare professionals it needs to provide the level of care needed if emergency surgery is to be provided at both sites.    The situation is exacerbated by the changes the Government have forced on the NHS around the use of locums & temporary staff, meaning that the Hospital has to limit how many locum doctors & nurses it can call in from agencies to cover shifts it does not have the staff for.  (For the sake of transparency, I should also point out that I have also been affect by these new rules as the Hospital in London I used to work for as freelance IT specialist was forced to release me as it could no longer offer me a temporary contract at my usual rate).

If this is the case (and I will check when I visit the Trust), then it is very worrying and not something that Mr Pinkerton or the Trust have much control over.    Doncaster & Bassetlaw must compete with hospitals across the country to attract the staff it needs to run services.  If there are not enough suitably trained doctors available for all the services it wants to provide, then something must give, in this case emergency surgery in Bassetlaw.

Simply put we need to be training more doctors & nurses (actually, as it takes over 6 years to train doctors, we needed to be doing this 10 years ago so that we would have the right doctors available now) or bring them in from other countries to fill the gaps left by poor planning in years’ past

Unless the Junior Doctors Contract dispute is settled soon, it is likely that the lack of Junior Doctors for hospitals like ours will get worse, not better, as many will choose to leave the profession or work abroad.

I hope my fears are unfounded and that Mr Pinkerton and his team can recruit the doctors needed to be able to restore Emergency Surgery to Bassetlaw Hospital in the near future.  I will do what I can to help this happen.

It would also be remiss of me not to mention that, even with these changes in services, both Bassetlaw & Doncaster Hospitals offer wonderful care and have mortality rates that are better than national expectation[i].  I am sure that Mr Pinkerton and all the staff across the whole Trust will work hard to deliver the best care they can and manage the current problems in the best way possible.

[i] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15897345

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