Bedford Hospital crisis: Junior doctors felt 'unsafe' treating children

Simon Gregory said the children's department was "quite old style" and could not recruit easily

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Junior doctors were removed from Bedford Hospital because they feared a child would be harmed, said the organisation which made the decision.

Health Education East of England (HEEoE) withdrew trainees from some paediatric services because of a shortage of senior staff to train them.

Dean Simon Gregory said trainees felt they were working in "an unsafe way".

Bedford's elected mayor Dave Hodgson said he wanted "clarity" on how the situation was allowed to develop.

The HEEoE decision led to Monday's announcement that Bedford Hospital NHS Trust was suspending certain services for patients aged under 19.

These include A&E, planned surgery and overnight observation after A&E treatment, as an interim measure.

Dr Gregory said there had been a "risk of something happening".

"It got to the stage where our trainees were really distressed, they felt they were practising in an unsafe way and that they might harm a child because they weren't getting the support," he said.

"There were a number of instances when, in a crisis, the trainees called for help and help wasn't forthcoming."

'Thinly spread'

He added that the action had not been taken just because one consultant allegedly failed to respond to a call for help, but because of recruitment problems.

"A unit that size should have eight whole-time equivalent consultants and at one time it was down to 2.8 to 3.8," he explained.

"Even if they are really good, really committed people who come when called, they are spread too thinly.

"The problem in this unit is that [problems] weren't addressed when they were raised."

Nearly 5,500 people in three days have signed a petition opposing the closures and Bedford MP Richard Fuller has called for an independent inquiry.

Mr Hodgson is to chair an emergency meeting of the council's Health and Wellbeing Board on Thursday.

Board members will hear from hospital managers and other health professionals and Mr Hodgson said he insisted on "nothing less than full openness".

He said: "We need clarity on exactly what the changes mean for local families, on how the services will be brought back to Bedford Hospital as swiftly as possible and about how this situation was allowed to develop."

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