A West Midlands hospital trust that axed more then 300 jobs to cut costs has ordered an urgent £3 million investment to combat severe short-staffing in its A&Es.
Managers of City Hospital, in Winson Green, and Sandwell Hospital, in West Bromwich, have revealed a shortage of A&E medical staff that breaches national standards.
But long term plans are to introduce more cheaper American-style physicians assistants, who are not doctors but are medically trained and will replace junior doctors in A&E as well as more new emergency nurse and physiotherapy practitioners for minor injuries.
West Midlands Quality Review Service analysed the two A&Es and ruled that both needed more medical staff to manage the workload, ordering nursing levels be kept under review.
Staffing rates reveal that Sandwell has enough medics to treat 40,300 patients a year, but they are actually coping with 83,000.
City A&E is staffed to cope with 75,400 patients a year and actually has 109,000 attendances.
Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust currently hires 200 emergency staff, but a business plan has been approved to invest £2.93 million until 2013 for more posts.
“The single most important factor required to deliver a high quality, timely and clinically effective service for patients is proper staffing for the whole emergency system,” said Andre Brown, trust divisional manager.
“The physician assistant role is fairly new to the UK and is gaining recognition. A training programme is now being delivered by our local universities at Birmingham and Wolverhampton with the first group qualifying this spring.
“These measures have the potential to create first class emergency departments on two sites.”
The trust plans to hire seven extra consultants, costing £840,000, by February next year as it has the lowest consultant staffing levels in the region. More senior nurse shift leaders are also needed.
The trust announced 40 redundancies and the non replacement of 280 posts in March last year to make £20million savings. Cost-cutting also played a part in the closure of the 12-bed Eliza Tinsley Ward at Rowley Regis Hospital.
City A&E is the main casualty department for Birmingham city centre.