‘NHS needs 50% more consultants’

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A section of the rally following the 1,500-strong march in Sutton demanding no cuts to the St Helier Hospital
A section of the rally following the 1,500-strong march in Sutton demanding no cuts to the St Helier Hospital

There needs to be a 50 per cent increase in the number of hospital consultants by 2010 to ensure ‘a safe service’, the President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England has warned.

Bernard Ribeiro said the government’s target of 2,700 more consultants in England and Wales by 2010 could not be reached because of a freeze on consultant posts in the face of deficits.

He said the increase from the current 5,462 was needed ‘to guarantee the safety of patients’.

Ribeiro went on to call for a tiered system of A&E care, consisting of a network of hospitals providing three levels of care.

Commenting yesterday on his speech to the Royal College of Surgeons last Friday, consultant surgeon Mrs Anna Athow told News Line: ‘Mr Ribeiro’s remarks are contradictory.

‘When he says, “if you want a safe service and if you want that service delivered by a consultant, you have to train them and train enough of them’’, that’s fine.

‘But he is also promoting hospitals serving populations of 200,000 in the provinces, apparently with no surgeons in them, who just “treat and transfer’’.

‘In March this year, Mr Ribeiro went on record as saying: “If elective and emergency services were effectively separated, we could reduce the number of A&E departments from 200 at the moment to 100.”

‘Nowhere does he call for the defence and maintenance of the 60 district general hospitals, threatened with downsizing and closure by the Department of Health in the next six months.

‘Many surgeons believe this policy will leave millions of patients served by hospitals without acute surgical cover.

‘Despite the rhetoric, Mr Ribeiro is flying a kite for the government’s “reconfiguration’’ reforms.

‘Doctors, the health service unions and the public must vigorously fight to defend every single district general hospital and stop them being closed.

‘Councils of Action must be set up to keep them open.’