By Sean Morris: Bosses at Stafford Hospital said it was a “very sad day” as the A&E night-time closures began.
The 10pm-8am closures will last for about three months when a review will be held to determine the fate of the Weston Road site.
Over the last two and a half years the hospital has been unable to recruit A&E consultants as well as middle grade doctors.
Six consultants are needed for the A&E to run efficiently but the hospital only has two available, despite recruitment drives.
Maggy Oldham, chief operating officer for Stafford General Hospital, said: “For the trust it’s a very sad day.
“A&E is the heart of the hospital and closing it down for the next three months has not been an easy decision.
“All our efforts now have to go into recruiting the right number of staff and ensuring we have the right skills so we can open it again.”
However, she also praised the efforts of staff at the hospital and affiliated organisations.
“Our staff are to be commended for their flexibility in what was an uncertain situation.
“I would like to thank our colleagues in the West Midlands Ambulance Service, our neighboring trust and the Primary Care Trust for working with us closely over the past few weeks.”
Diana Smith, who started the petition against the closure, was outside A&E with public and community leaders, including Jeremy Lefroy MP for Stafford, and Rowan Draper, Stafford Borough councillor.
She said: “All the things we’ve been doing over the last few weeks we’ve made it very clear we do want it to re-open as quickly as possible but as soon as it is safe to do so.
“It’s been such a difficult time over the last three or four years but we are at a point now where things are beginning to change.
“I think it is a time to be hopeful and look towards a brighter a future so in a sense the lights that we have brought down tonightare a part of that.”