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Senior staff raise Dr Gray’s Hospital A&E concerns as NHS Grampian rejects suggestion department could be closed overnight

By Ewan Malcolm

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SENIOR staff at Dr Gray’s in Elgin have raised concerns regarding the sustainability of the hospital’s A&E department.

A&E at Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin. Picture: Beth Taylor
A&E at Dr Gray's Hospital in Elgin. Picture: Beth Taylor

Staff members, who want to remain anonymous, contacted MSP Tim Eagle claiming that training posts in the department have been scrapped and that cuts to locum doctors, nurses and other training posts could lead to overnight closures of the A&E department as a “minimum”.

NHS Grampian has confirmed that concerns have been raised about the trainee doctor rota which will begin in August.

However, the health board rejected any suggestion that the emergency department could be forced to close overnight.

Alasdair Pattinson, hospital general manager, said: “I am in discussion with senior colleagues in the emergency department at Dr Gray's Hospital, following concerns they have raised about the number of trainee doctors who will come to the department in August.

“I accept there has been some confusion and miscommunication, but I am confident we can resolve this to everyone's satisfaction.

“I am arranging to meet with the team to discuss this personally.”

Mr Pattinson added: “I want to be very clear in my support of the emergency department team, who do an excellent job in the midst of unprecedented demand on their services.

“This is a 24/7 service and it will always be a 24/7 service.”

Mr Eagle has requested an "emergency meeting" with NHS Grampian.
Mr Eagle has requested an "emergency meeting" with NHS Grampian.

Mr Eagle, Scottish Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands, has requested an “emergency meeting” with NHS Grampian to discuss the situation.

He says that there are “very serious” questions about the “sustainability” of the 24-hour A&E department at the hospital that need to be addressed.

Mr Eagle said: “We all know that the hospital has faced repeated challenges about staffing which has led to patients, including expectant mums, being expected to travel to Aberdeen.

“And there have always been worries about the commitment of NHS Grampian to Dr Gray’s long-term future as a general hospital.

“But we cannot have a situation where our over-stretched ambulance service is expected to routinely transport emergency cases from Moray to other hospitals outside our area.

“As well as putting unfair pressure on staff, any delay in treatment could be very serious for at-risk patients.”

Earlier this year it was reported that a 10-year-plan for Dr Gray’s would have to be redrawn after NHS Grampian announced that it was facing an “absolutely unprecedented” funding crisis.

Budget cuts totalling £77 million need to be made and Dr Gray’s itself is facing a £12 million overspend which in part has been blamed on the hospital’s reliance on stand-in locum and agency staff.

Mr Pattinson said: “Speaking more generally, the current financial pressures on the NHS mean we monitor all vacancies carefully.

“However, we are still actively recruiting into a range of roles at Dr Gray's Hospital.

"While locum cover can be extremely useful, it is also expensive - sometimes two to three times the cost of a substantive member of staff.

“Use of medical agency locums makes up 70 per cent of Dr Gray's Hospital's current overspend, therefore we have to examine all spending very carefully.

“We must also follow the overall NHS Scotland terms and conditions when using locum cover."

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