Frequently asked questions
Q. Why can’t things stay as they are?
A. The Trust’s priority is to ensure the highest and safest standards of hospital care for the local population now and in the future. No change is not an option because it would result in unacceptable and deteriorating standards of care and treatment. This view is supported not only by the Trust’s own clinicians, but also independently by one of the country’s leading doctors - Professor Sir George Alberti, National Director for Emergency Access.
Q. Is this about saving money rather than improving standards and services for patients?
A. No. It is true that all NHS organisations have to provide best value for taxpayers’ money. However, the priority is to provide safe and effective treatment for patients now and in the future by meeting national standards and guidelines for care and treatment.
Q. Will travelling further for emergency care put patients at risk?
A. No. There is no evidence that patients are put at increased risk owing to longer journey times. In fact, the evidence shows that results for patients are better in bigger A&E departments. Locally, the ambulance service has been taking patients from the Dales directly to Darlington Memorial for several years, and arrangements for transferring complex maternity patients from Bishop Auckland to Darlington also operate successfully.
Q. If patients need more specialist care, why doesn’t the Trust just recruit specialist doctors to all of its hospitals?
A. Specialists need to work in teams so that the full range of services is available to patients in an emergency. They also need to cover a large enough population to make sure they see enough patients to keep up their skills. This is called ‘critical mass’. None of the Trust’s hospitals is big enough to provide this ‘critical mass’ on its own.
Q. Why choose Bishop Auckland as the planned care site?
A. Bishop Auckland is being proposed as the site for planned services because it is reasonably central and therefore well placed for patients from the wider area. Developing Bishop Auckland as one of the acute sites would require extensive building works, therefore delaying implementation beyond an acceptable timescale for sustaining services. More patients would be likely to go to other hospitals outside the area if acute services were not provided in either Darlington or Durham.
Q. Is this the beginning of the end for Bishop Auckland?
A. No. The aim of Seizing the Future is to secure the future of all sites and to maximise the use of all of the facilities. In addition, a range of local and Trust-wide services is proposed for the site. These proposals would secure a strong future for services at Bishop Auckland.
Q. Why not make these changes before spending £68m on a new hospital at Bishop Auckland?
A. Since the new Bishop Auckland General Hospital opened in 2002 there have been major developments in medical practice and changes in healthcare policy. These changes have affected hospitals across the country. Nevertheless, the role proposed for Bishop Auckland remains a vital one, for local hospital care and Trust-wide services.
Q. Will any jobs be lost?
A. The Trust would not make anyone redundant as a result of the changes. There would be new ways of working and perhaps changes to the locations at which some staff are based. The Trust would work closely with staff and the trade unions to ensure that the views and needs of staff continue to be taken into account at every step in the process.
Q. Is there enough capacity at Darlington Memorial and University Hospital for acute patients from Bishop Auckland?
A. There would be enough capacity – as long as the proposed move of planned services to Bishop Auckland goes ahead. Although it is sometimes necessary to transfer patients between sites because of temporary shortfalls in capacity, the Trust has always been able to manage patients across all of its sites.
Q. Have decisions already been made?
A. No decisions can or will be made until after consultation. Any major changes to health services require consultation with the people who use them. At this stage these are proposals which are under consideration.
Q. To what extent will my views REALLY influence the outcome of this process?
A. The options proposed in the consultation document are the result of months of engagement with clinicians and others with an interest in health services. Responses to the public consultation will be considered very carefully by the Boards of County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust and NHS County Durham when making their final decision on the options.