Leeds & West Yorkshire

Yvette Cooper 'deeply worried' by Army A&E medics plan

Pontefract Hospital
Pontefract Hospital's A&E department has been closed overnight since 1 November

A proposal to bring in Army medics to cover a shortage of doctors is "deeply worrying", MP Yvette Cooper says.

The A&E unit in Pontefract, run by Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, has been closed overnight since 1 November.

Ms Cooper, shadow home secretary and MP for Pontefract and Castleford, was backed by Hemsworth MP Jon Trickett, who said the trust should "get a grip".

The trust said the unit would reopen fully as soon as enough doctors could be recruited to staff it safely.

It said it had been advised by outside experts to seek help from the Army Medical Service, as Mid Staffordshire has already done, to provide a 24-hour service.

'Sick of words'

Ms Cooper said: "It is deeply worrying that two hospitals have now had to seek help from the Army because of the shortage of doctors."

She also called on the government to explain urgently what action ministers would take "to deliver the doctors we need".

She said 12,000 people had signed a petition to get Pontefract A&E reopened fully.

Labour MP Mr Trickett told BBC Radio Leeds that the recruitment of doctors was a "general issue" facing the NHS.

He also said there had been "not the best possible" management at the trust.

"I am sick of words, I want to see deeds now.

"The answer is for the management of the trust to get a grip and recruit the necessary staff."

'Exceptional circumstances'

The trust said it was looking at how Army medical staff could provide support on a temporary basis and considering a range of options based on the experience of other trusts.

Professor Tim Hendra, medical director at the trust, said: "These doctors would be trained medical staff that are not currently on military service but who could provide temporary support with our staffing rotas.

"We understand that this is only offered in exceptional circumstances.

"So far, we have only had some very exploratory conversations with the Army."

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