Scarborough Hospital overnight A&E cover threatened

Scarborough Hospital sign The possible overnight closure of Scarborough's A&E department is being considered by the trust

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Emergency cover during the night at Scarborough Hospital could end as a North Yorkshire NHS trust attempts to save millions of pounds.

The proposal is one of a number being considered by NHS North Yorkshire and York as it faces a £19m deficit.

Trust chief executive Chris Long said officials had agreed a "long list" of possible money-saving initiatives.

"We can't take ideas off the table just because they look too scary," said Mr Long.

Even ideas which might have seemed "unthinkable" just a couple of years ago would now be considered, he said.

"The scale of the change we've got to make is quite enormous," he added.

'Unacceptable impact'

Proposals such as the possible closure of hundreds of hospital beds in North Yorkshire and the downgrading of Scarborough's maternity service could not be ruled out, Mr Long said.

Analysis

The NHS in North Yorkshire has severe financial problems and, as such, some of the solutions under consideration are fairly radical.

The Primary Care Trust, which provides most healthcare, is already expected to have overspent this year by £19m. But on top of that they need to find savings of around £250m by 2015.

They have started a process to identify how and where savings can be made and a number of brainstorming workshops have taken place.

Today we have learned that one of the suggestions tabled includes closing Scarborough's A&E unit at night and downgrading maternity services. This is likely to be unpopular with local people and politicians and would involve a significant service change.

However, it is important to note that these are simply ideas at this stage, rather than concrete proposals. Any significant changes that do come out of the review would need to go out to public consultation.

In September, NHS North Yorkshire and York announced a range of medical services in the county were under review as it attempted to cut its deficit.

It also said additional savings of £55m per year would have to be made, meaning "difficult decisions" to ensure essential services could continue.

Robert Goodwill, Conservative MP for Scarborough and Whitby, said the draft proposals would have an "unacceptable impact" if put into practice.

"My initial reaction is four words - over my dead body. There is no way we can manage in Scarborough without full accident and emergency availability 24/7."

'Worrying development'

Ray Gray, from the union Unison, said the draft proposals were "a really, really worrying development".

Any overnight closure of Scarborough's A&E department "could put lives at risk", warned Mr Gray.

The current list of draft proposals would be narrowed down before being discussed again by the trust in January 2013, said Mr Long.

The trust would work with GPs, hospital doctors, managers and local residents before any of the proposals became a reality, he added.

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