A&E night closure at Welwyn's QEII hospital provokes anger

Patients will travel 14 miles to Stevenage as A&E in Welwyn Garden City is scaled down

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A decision to close a Hertfordshire hospital's accident and emergency service overnight will put lives at risk, campaigners to keep it open say.

The Queen Elizabeth II Hospital (QEII) in Welwyn Garden City treats only minor injuries between 20:00 and 08:00 GMT.

From Monday, those developing serious conditions overnight must travel to Stevenage's Lister Hospital.

The Welwyn & Hatfield Keep NHS Public Campaign said this would create "a serious health risk to its patients".

The East and North Hertfordshire Trust said that those with serious conditions must travel to where the emergency staff are.

In October 2011, all emergency surgery of the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust was brought together at the Lister Hospital, 14 miles away from the QEII.

The Trust said changes needed to be made to overnight A&E services at the QEII because the majority of the surgeons were now based at the Lister.

'Fewer doctors'

Associate Director, Peter Gibson said: "The surgeons are [at the QEII] during the day for out-patients and routine surgery but at night we know that we have fewer doctors on the site.

"That's one of the main clinical safety reasons why we've shifted the overnight A&E services to the Lister, to be where the staff are.

"Our doctors' and nurses' job is to actually care for patients, if they thought they were doing something that would put lives at risk they wouldn't do it. Our doctors and nurses are at the heart of these decisions."

But Barry Cross, from the Keep NHS Public Campaign, said: "It's rather disingenuous to say that the doctors are driving it, it's the Primary Care Trust that is driving it.

"They are saying it's happening because they have got a shortage of doctors [at the QEII] but that's because they moved the services from the QEII and created the problem in the first place.

"We will fight on as long as there are any services left at the QEII hospital. As far as we're concerned, people want and need two hospitals, that's why they have got them there."

It was a 2007 consultation which led to the decision to close many of the services at the QEII and transfer them to Stevenage, with the aim of providing all acute services for the area on one site.

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