doc

A PARLIAMENTARY report has called for emergency consultants to be paid extra to work at struggling hospitals, such as the Royal Blackburn.

The Committee of Public Accounts said attempts to improve accident and emergency services were being hampered by a ‘chronic shortage’ of senior doctors.

Chairman Margaret Hodge, also a Labour MP, said: “Struggling hospitals, such as those placed in special measures, find it even harder to attract and retain consultants. There are currently no incentive payments to make working in these hospitals a more attractive prospect.

“So, we raised with the Department (of Health) the possibility of paying consultants more to work at struggling hospitals.

“You could also make greater use in A&E of consultants from other departments, or mandate that all trainee consultants spend time in A&E.”

Staff shortages and high admission rates have left the emergency department at the Royal Blackburn Hospital overwhelmed in recent years, and the problems led to some severe criticism of East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT) by NHS chief Sir Bruce Keogh last July, when the organisation was placed in special measures.

A major recruitment campaign has since been launched, but three of the 11 emergency consultant posts remain vacant, as well as eight out of 18 middle grade posts.

Charles Thomson, clinical director and consultant in emergency medicine at ELHT, said the trust has been out to advert on several occasions to recruit additional consultants, but said there are ‘very few consultants in this speciality available to recruit’.

Blackburn’s emergency department takes patients from across East Lancashire, following the closure of Burnley’s A&E ward several years ago.

Consultant contracts are agreed at a national level. Health minister Dan Poulter said the government is considering ways of making a consultants' career in A&E more attractive.

And the issue is being addressed as part of current negotiations.