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BMA seeks clinician input in Mid Staffs reconfiguration

Doctors will be encouraged to help shape the future of clinical services as Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust is reconfigured, the BMA has said.

The association is encouraging as many doctors working there as possible to provide their knowledge, experience and opinion of how clinical services should be best run as the trust looks set to be placed under special measures.

The final report of a team of experts working with the trust — the subject of a devastating public inquiry into poor care standards — has confirmed that while the quality of patient services are no longer under question, they are not clinically or financially sustainable.

The contingency planning team report, published earlier this week, recommends Stafford and Cannock hospitals become ‘local’ hospitals, providing a range of frequently used services, such as diagnostics, clinically appropriate medical and surgical day cases, and outpatient appointments. Stafford Hospital would also have a 24/7 emergency and urgent care service.

Such services would allow the hospitals to meet the needs of 80 per cent of patients, the report says.

Elective inpatient care could be sustainable if consolidated at a single site, the report adds.

Radical reconfiguration

More specialist and serious care would be provided elsewhere, including at University Hospital of North Staffordshire, the Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals and Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust.

The report says: ‘At [the trust] today, the relatively small number of patients being treated does not provide consultants with the range and frequency of experience they need to maintain their skills, and the number of consultants available means that it is often not possible to have seven-day-a-week or up to 24-hours-a-day specialist consultant presence in many services.’

The contingency planning team was appointed by foundation trust watchdog Monitor to draw up proposals for the trust’s future. It developed its plans with input from local doctors, patient representatives and healthcare commissioners and providers.

The BMA has said it will support doctors affected by the proposals and urged them to get involved in the process.

BMA council chair Mark Porter said: ‘These are obviously very stressful times for doctors at the trust, and for the patients who depend on its services.

‘It is now crucial that staff and management are able to work together closely to find the best way forward. We are still at the early stages of change, but there will need to be full consultation and open communication with staff throughout.

‘The BMA would encourage all medical staff to attend the ongoing staff briefings. Of course, we will continue to provide as much support as possible to doctors affected by the changes.’

The team advised Monitor to press ahead with the appointment of a TSA (trust special administrator) under a new failure regime for foundation trusts.

Should the TSA be appointed, the TSA will be consulting doctors and other clinical staff before drawing up final proposals for change.

Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust chair John Caldwell said the board would be making a formal response about the report to Monitor.