Bosses at Chorley Council are demanding a rethink of options on the future of accident and emergency (A&E) provision in Chorley amid fears any consultation on its future is geared to closing the vital service in the borough for good.

A notice of motion tabled at Tuesday’s (September 16) meeting saw councillors of all parties unanimously back the call for more options to be considered and laid the blame for the situation on poor management at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust.

The debate came on the back of proposals published by Our Health, Our Care, which outlines eight possible options to go out to consultation – none of which offer clinical support for a full provision of A&E at Chorley and South Ribble Hospital.

Councillor Peter Wilson, Deputy Leader of Chorley Council, said: “We shouldn’t have to be in a position where we are here again trying to save the future of our hospital and the vital A&E service it offers to residents.

“The whole situation is a disgrace – we’ve got eight options – all of the ones relating to keeping an A&E in Chorley are deemed unviable. Why’s that? If the hospital trust really had the interests of residents at heart then they’d be working out how they could make it viable and take it from there.

“We have a growing population, which places increasing demands on the service, and we only have to look at the huge problems it caused at hospitals across the region when the A&E was shut.”

Chorley and South Ribble A&E has been operating on a part-time basis for more than two years and it was closed for much of 2016.

The closure and subsequent partial re-opening has put increasing pressure on neighbouring hospitals and left people needing emergency care queuing in ambulances to be seen by a doctor.

“An awful lot of people have put a huge amount of time and effort in fighting for the future of the A&E at Chorley & South Ribble Hospital so the least they deserve is to have a consultation on a realistic proposal to have an A&E in the borough,” said Councillor Wilson.

“We know the disaster that awaits should the A&E be moved to Preston so we need more options to consider – if there is a proposal to be a single site A&E for Chorley, South Ribble and Preston it cannot be on the site in Fulwood.

“I accept that the trust has been under huge financial pressures but the predicament the trust find itself in is not down to that alone - it has been caused in part by poor management of the trust.

“The message to residents is that we want a 24-hour A&E in Chorley – if that cannot be achieved then options for a single site hospital, which isn’t on the current site in Preston, need to be put forward.”

Responding to the criticism levelled at her organisation during the meeting, Karen Partington, chief executive at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:  ​"Our own clinicians who work at our hospitals and care for local people on a daily basis have long believed that things need to change if the care they provide is to be improved. This was described within the 'case for change' which was reviewed and approved by the joint committee of CCGs in December 2018.

“The case for change clearly outlines the significant challenges which we must address. Many of these are national challenges which we are feeling locally, such as staff shortages and, whilst we have already started to make improvements to address these, small steps will not give us a long-term solution for sustainable services in Central Lancashire.​

"The need for change has also been further reiterated by the honest assessments of external and independent clinical experts who spoke with many of our staff and reviewed clinical data available to them. Furthermore, independent researchers also spoke with local residents and found that nine out of ten people believe that the local NHS needs to change, too.

"That means looking at new options for how our services are organised if we are to make the best use of our clinical workforce, our buildings and environments, as well as improve the way local people are able to access the services they need,” Ms Partington added.

Denis Gizzi, chief officer at the Chorley and South Ribble and Greater Preston CCGs said that Chorley Council was a “valued partner” in the Our Health Our Care programme which is designing the future shape of NHS services in Central Lancashire.

"No option has been formally discounted at this stage of the programme and further work is taking place around the A&E model at both hospital sites, reflecting our continuing open-minded approach. This includes undertaking further significant clinical assessment and scrutiny of all 13 options presented.

“We have not identified a preferred option from those published and it will be some time before we are in a position to be able to formally consult on the options developed. Any consultation about these options will be open, honest, and fair, allowing everyone an opportunity to have their say. 

“No decisions about the options will be taken until after such a consultation has taken place and no option will be implemented by the programme unless it can be demonstrated to be safe, clinically viable and sustainable for the future,” Mr Gizzi added.