CONSULTANTS from University Hospital of North Staffordshire are being drafted in to tackle staff shortages at Stafford Hospital from next month.
Plans developed in partnership between UHNS and Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundations Trust (MSFT) will see senior clinicians from Stoke's emergency centre team working in Stafford's A&E, as well as in other areas where Stafford suffers a shortage of permanent consultants.
In a joint statement, Maggie Oldham and Mark Hackett, chief executives at MSFT and UHNS respectively, stressed the plans were a key element of day-today work and not part of the ongoing administration plans at MSFT.
"We are delighted to have the opportunity to build on the close working relationship that our two organisations have developed over the past few years," they said.
"We are mutually dependent and by working together and sharing our resources, we can provide excellent care at both hospitals for our communities.
"There are a lot of examples of outstanding care at both hospitals and we want our staff to have the opportunity of sharing the best practice and learning from each other."
The statement says small general hospitals depend on specialised services from larger trusts and cannot exist in isolation, referencing services like ear, nose and throat (ENT) - which have been delivered by UHNS teams at Stafford for several years - and seriously ill Stafford patients - for example those who have had severe heart attacks or very serious injuries - who are already cared for in Stoke.
"This is very much in the interest of both organisations as it will not only help Stafford's A&E maintain a safe service during its opening hours of 8am to 10pm, but will also prevent additional pressure being put on University Hospital's A&E," the two chief executives said.
The plans also involve merging the urology departments at the two trusts from mid-October with all outpatient clinics, assessment and day case treatment continuing to be provided at Stafford, but a small number of patients with urological emergencies, or where inpatient treatment is required, treated at UHNS.
The statement says: "Treating a wide range of urological conditions to the highest standard is complex.
"Research shows that the best outcomes for patients are achieved when patients are treated by a highly trained specialist team working as part of a network, with a large centre, to which many patients are referred.
"The more operations carried out at a particular hospital, the more likely it is that treatment will be successful.
"This will allow doctors and other staff to sub-specialise and maintain their skills at the highest level, ensuring that patients get the care that they need."
The two chief executives said they would continue to support each other and urged staff and local communities to do the same.
"As Chief Executives, we will continue to support each other and we ask our staff and local communities to do the same. We all have the same aim, which is to have excellent care for all patients in Staffordshire."