Emergency Doctor Shortage Sparks U.K. Hospital A&E Crisis

Accident and emergency ward
A patient is wheeled from an ambulance parked outside the Accident and Emergency department of Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, Gloucester, England, January 6, 2015. Matt Cardy

A widening gap between the supply and demand for emergency doctors is leading to a crisis in Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments across the U.K., according to leading medics.

The warning from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine comes as an A&E in the East Midlands announced it may have to temporarily close its doors at night due to a national shortage of emergency doctors.

Hospital bosses at Grantham and District Hospital announced that they are looking to reduce A&E hours because of a "severe shortage of doctors."

United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the A&E as well as two others in the region, said that it had been "seriously affected" by a "national shortage of appropriately trained doctors to work in A&Es."

In a statement, it said: "We have reached a crisis point and we may put patients at risk if we don't act."

Dr Suneil Kapadia, medical director at ULHT, said: "We haven't made a final decision yet, and we hope to avoid this, but the reality is we will need to temporarily reduce the opening hours of A&E at Grantham.

"The quality and safety of patient care is the Trust's number one priority and we haven't rested on our laurels.

"We have tried to recruit in the U.K. and internationally, and we have offered premium rates to attract agency doctors whilst investing £4 million in urgent care services. Despite this, we have reached crisis point."

Commenting on the news, Dr Clifford Mann, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: "The great efforts made by doctors and nurses to help patients in under-resourced locations sometimes is not sustainable.

"As well as potentially putting patient safety at risk, placing an ever increasing workload on overstretched staff can create a vicious circle in retention and recruitment with many overworked trainees simply choosing to leave the country or indeed the specialty altogether.

"The wider picture is there is a real crisis in emergency medicine as our workforce numbers are not growing fast enough to keep pace with rising numbers of patients attending A&E departments."