Scarborough Hospital will face “challenges” to maintain a 24-hour surgical rota in the coming months, the health trust says.
Two surgeons will be leaving the hospital in the “near future” and there will be “challenges” to maintain a 24-hour surgical rota on the Yorkshire Coast.
The rota provides around-the-clock cover in case a patient at the hospital requires immediate general surgery.
A healthcare worker in the area, who asked to remain anonymous, claims: “This has massive implications for the local population.
“They could find themselves without a surgeon within 45 miles of Scarborough, able to operate in an emergency.
“This could lead to deaths. If we don’t have surgeons then we stand to lose accident and emergency, and many operations currently done at Scarborough.”
The York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospitals in Scarborough, Bridlington and York, is working to maintain the availability of the existing service.
A spokesperson for the trust said: “The expected departure of two surgeons from Scarborough Hospital in the next few months is anticipated to create challenges in maintaining a 24-hour surgical rota on the East Coast.
“The management and clinical teams from across the Trust are working to maintain the availability of the existing service and we are confident no patients will be affected.”
If a patient on a ward or in the accident and emergency department took a turn for the worse and needed surgery, the current 24-hour rota ensures an on-call surgeon is available.
The trust says maintaining surgical services at Scarborough is a “priority” and it is working with consultants at York to ensure that the appropriate cover is met at Scarborough Hospital.
Poorer outcomes and increased stress levels for service users at Scarborough is also a concern.
Nigel Ayre, delivery manager for Healthwatch North Yorkshire, said: “At Healthwatch North Yorkshire, we are committed to representing patient voice in Scarborough.
“The availability of a 24-hour surgeon rota is important to the quality of treatment in emergency services, and we would seek assurances that patient relocation in a crisis would not lead to poorer outcomes and more stress for service users and their families.
“It is important that the standard of healthcare does not suffer based on location, and we will be monitoring the situation as it progresses.
“We always encourage the public to reach out to us at Healthwatch and share their experience, positive or negative, in receiving healthcare.”
The Scarborough and Ryedale Clinical Commissioning Group is currently working with the trust to look at possible options and supports the steps made by the trust so far.
MP for Scarborough Robert Goodwill said: “We do need to make sure we have the personnel to do the treatment and that they can deliver it in Scarborough.
“When the Scarborough and York trusts merged I was told by the then chief executive that this was about doctors travelling to Scarborough, not patients going to York. We have a lot of elderly people in Scarborough who would have to make the journey and for people to have to travel to get their treatment is not really acceptable.”
Struggles to recruit new staff to Scarborough in professions such as health and education is an issue.
Mr Goodwill said: “It is a major challenge to recruit hospital doctors, surgeons and GPs as it is recruiting headteachers and a lot of other professions. Bringing people to Scarborough is difficult and it means recruitment is more expensive with more being spent on advertisements.
"Another issue is spouse employment. If there is a position for an accident and emergency consultant at Scarborough Hospital but their partner is a headteacher and they don’t want to move or there isn’t a position available they are reluctant to come here.”
Concerns have also been raised regarding staffing across the hospital, including in respiratory care.
The trust says it has made some changes to work patterns to ensure it can cover the current staffing pressures it is facing and to reduce waiting times.