Wigan hospital says 'unprecedented' pressure partly down to A&E closure

Chorley Hospital
Image caption Chorley's Hospital accident and emergency department has been closed temporarily

"Unprecedented" demand for emergency care in Wigan has been partially blamed on the closure of an A&E unit.

Chorley Hospital was downgraded to an urgent care centre in April as it could not "recruit enough staff" following a pay cap for hospital agency staff.

Wigan hospital said it had seen a four-fold increase in people with a Chorley postcode attending its A&E.

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Chorley, denied the increase was "significant".

The Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) said 260 additional patients had been treated at Wigan hospital since the Chorley service was downgraded two months ago.

It warned the public on Tuesday not to visit Wigan's A&E department unless they had a life-threatening emergency.

Image copyright David Long/Geograph
Image caption The public have been asked to stay away from Wigan Royal Albert Edward Infirmary unless they have a serious illness

A spokeswoman for the trust told the BBC the added pressure at Wigan Infirmary was due to the downgrading of Chorley's A&E to an urgent care service and follows eight months of "heavy pressure" at the hospital.

She also said there had been an "unexplained" drop-off in the number of people in the Wigan area using out-of-hours GP services.

In a later statement, the trust's chief executive Andrew Foster, claimed: "The increase in attendance is around 20 patients per day and is caused by a number of factors, only one of which is the temporary changes to Chorley Hospital.

"We are seeing around five additional patients from the Chorley area a day."

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said in April there were "no other safe options" than to close the Chorley facility in 2015.

Its chief executive Karen Partington said the arrangements had seen about 18 patients from the Chorley area attend the nearby Royal Preston Hospital each day which was "lower than we predicted".

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She said North West Ambulance Service, and surrounding hospitals, had "not reported any significant increase in patients" but the trust would continue to assess any impact on neighbouring departments.

Lisa Nandy, Labour MP for Wigan, has asked Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to intervene.

She said: "MPs from across the region have raised concerns about this ongoing and unacceptable situation in Chorley and the impact it is clearly now having on patients."

Chorley Hospital has eight of the 14 doctors it needs and can therefore only staff less than half the hours required.

Patients in Wigan have been advised to use the walk-in centre at Leigh, or out-of-hours GP services instead of attending A&E.

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