One in six A&E departments at risk of closure or downgrade

One in six A&E departments face being closed or downgraded in the next four years, according to an analysis of NHS proposals.

About 33 casualty departments in hospitals in 23 areas of the UK are facing either complete closure or being replaced with minor injuries units.

The plans are part of efforts to plug a £22bn hole in the health service budget by 2021. Health officials insist the changes will come alongside efforts to modernise services and increase specialist urgent care.

In seven cases, proposals have been drawn up, some of which have been issued for local consultation. According to research by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), 26 more hospitals are now considering plans to close or downgrade services but no final decision has been made.

The seven hospitals for which there are public proposals to downgrade or close emergency departments include Sandwell and West Birmingham hospitals trust’s City hospital and Sandwell district general hospital, which are due to be replaced by a new department at the Midland Metropolitan hospital that is scheduled to open in 2018.

The remaining 26 hospitals may have their A&Es downgraded or closed but, equally, they could be kept or upgraded. Decisions are expected to be made between either Shrewsbury or Telford, Bedford or Milton Keynes and Darlington memorial hospital or the University hospital of north Tees.

In total, about 24 of the 33 hospitals under discussion are likely to lose full A&E services, the HSJ said.

Full story The Guardian, 6 February 2017