The Trust currently provides emergency medicine on all three of its acute hospital sites and emergency surgery on two sites, Darlington Memorial Hospital and University Hospital of North Durham.
Consultant cover for acute specialties is spread thinly at Bishop Auckland and Darlington. It is only due to the commitment of staff at both sites that reasonable services are currently being maintained. Staffing levels are better at University Hospital, due to the previous merger between the former Dryburn Hospital and Shotley Bridge in 1996.
Darlington Memorial and Bishop Auckland in particular do not meet the required levels of emergency physicians recommended by the Royal College of Physicians. In addition, throughout the Trust, there are still too many single-handed consultants in some specialties. Therefore, a 24/7 service provided by an experienced specialist physician cannot be guaranteed for some patients.
The future vision for the NHS
Since the Trust review of 2002, there have been significant changes in healthcare policy, most notably those signalled by two national reports from Lord Darzi.
Our Health, Our Care, Our Say describes a vision for a world class NHS that provides more care in the community and care as close to home as safely as possible.
High Quality Care For All, published in June 2008, places particular emphasis on safe, high quality 24/7 emergency care with patients travelling further for more specialised treatment where necessary and, at the same time, improving local care wherever possible. The report clearly argues that it will not be possible to provide the best care in every hospital for conditions such as stroke, heart attack, major trauma and specialist surgery and that networks of care with specialist services will be needed.