A SENIOR doctor at East Lancashire’s hospitals has made a shocking series of claims over conditions faced by patients and staff.
The clinician, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of losing their job, said the merging of Blackburn and Burnley’s facilities under the Meeting Patients’ Needs programme had been “a disaster”, resulting in overworked staff and patients being put in danger.
The doctor was so concerned over the issues they made contact with hospital campaigner Councillor Gordon Birtwistle, leader of Burnley Council, who put the medic in touch with the Lancashire Telegraph.
Trust bosses, who defended the treatment received by patients at the hospitals, criticised the doctor for making the concerns public rather than reporting the problems to them.
The doctor, who said they were “lucky never to have had to be a patient”, claimed:
• Patients were not being treated as well because doctors were spending more time travelling between the hospitals;
• Doctors could not see critically ill patients regulary because they were spread across two hospital sites;
• At least one operation a week was having to be cancelled because of lost notes or overfilled wards;
• Patients were being put at risk because of increased ambulance journey times between Burnley and Blackburn;
• Wards at the hospitals were still dirty despite the recent government-sponsored “Deep Clean”.
The doctor, who has long experience in hospital medicine, said: “Most of the doctors think merging the facilities has made things much worse.
“I have critically ill patients but because they are spread across both sites I only get to see them two days a week.
"For the five days I don’t see them and they are looked after by doctors who don’t know their histories as well as their named consultant so they don’t notice little changes that add up to serious deterioration.
“Every week, we have to cancel operations because records are not there, or equipment is not there, or we have not got an after-care bed available.
"Often we have the most recent notes, but nothing long-term so you can’t look at incidents from the past that could be affecting them now.
“So you have to send them home and have them back for another appointment, which could have been taken by someone else if we had been able to have a proper consultation the first time.”
The doctor said the decision to close Burnley’s accident and emergency department had resulted in increased risk for patients.
“Patients do deteriorate further on their way in to Blackburn from the Burnley end - that may not come out in the immediate death figures, but more people will die within the first 24 hours or end up with permanent problems or face a much longer and more difficult recovery, simply because they were left longer to get worse before they were treated properly in a hospital,” the doctor said.
“We are all under pressure. We spend all our time going up and down the motorway to see different patients, and there are big problems with capacity.
"If there is no room for a patient on the medical ward, for instance, they will be sent to a surgical ward, where the staff have little experience in dealing with medical patients so care is compromised.
“Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale has a population of 250,000, which the government’s own advisors say is more than enough to support a fully-functioning hospital.
“Taking it all into Blackburn means the service is too big to be able to provide personal service and keep everything running as it should.
"All the main services should be on both sites so that they can be managed in smaller teams.”
The doctor was unhappy about the recent deep clean carried out at the hospital saying it was just a ‘propaganda exercise’.
“It all comes back to the main problem in the NHS and in Lancashire in particular - the general trend is that health professionals have less and less say on how things are run and that means patients suffer,” the doctor said.
Coun Birtwistle said: "This person - a senior clinician - has put themselves at great personal risk to approach both myself and the Press.
"This person is a very experienced doctor who is giving their opinion, but is risking their job by doing so.”