'Glut' of hospital services could be shut down

A "glut" of NHS hospital services could soon be shut down, a health expert has warned.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents frontline NHS leaders, said the financial strain was getting too much.

He called on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and NHS England boss Simon Stevens to admit there is a disparity between what the NHS is being asked to achieve and the money that is available to do it.

"We are increasingly finding people cannot find the senior consultant staff in order to keep those rotas up and running," he said.

"Our members tell us they are struggling to keep services open because of workforce shortages and therefore face really difficult decisions; do you close down something either permanently or temporarily because you cannot staff it safely?"

Services in the firing line could include A&E departments in some areas, The Guardian reports.

Proposals include 'virtual consultations' between patients and doctors. Credit: PA

Services identified at risk include:

  • Leicestershire: Proposals are in place to reduce the number of acute hospitals from three to two.

  • Black Country: Proposals are in place to reduce the number of acute hospitals from five to four and close one of two district general hospitals.

  • North-west London: There are plans to reduce face-to-face consultations between doctors and patients with the implementation of more 'virtual' consultations. It is also proposed to give patients coaching so that they can manage their own conditions without seeing a doctor.

  • Leeds: The equivalent of five wards in the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust are at risk.

The Department of Health insisted it had given the NHS the money it asked for in its own plan for the future - an extra £10bn per year by 2020.

A spokesman said: "We expect the NHS to focus on balancing the books whilst continuing to provide high-quality care for patients."