THE CORONER has raised concerns about the availability of orthopaedic hospital staff at weekends.

Following an inquest acting senior coroner for the district of Manchester West, Alan Walsh, asked Royal Bolton Hospital about the levels of staff on different wards at the weekends and was concerned enough to issue a legal report known as a Regulation 28.

These are issued when a coroner is worried there could be future deaths as a result of something that has come to light during an inquest.

The board members at Royal Bolton Hospital were told in their meeting yesterday that: “During the giving of evidence at a recent inquest, the Coroner, Mr Walsh queried how many doctors are available at the weekend to review patients on the wards.

“Unfortunately, despite reassurance that there is access to a registrar and consultant in addition to that of the on-call medical team/nurse practitioners Mr Walsh remained concerned about the staffing levels in relation to doctors at the weekend, specifically in relation to orthopaedics and as such indicated he will be reporting matters and the Trust will get a Regulation 28.”

Dr Jackie Bene, chief executive of the hospital trust told fellow board members: “Despite a lot of assurance to the coroner that we don’t have a lone practitioner they have issued a Regulation 28 on that basis but it’s not the case there are lone practitioners over weekends.

“This doctor probably didn’t realise he had that network of support or didn’t realise that’s what the coroner was asking.”

Board member Martin North asked whether they needed to make sure junior doctors were aware of the colleagues available to them.

Dr Bene clarified: “[He was asked] ‘Does he have other colleagues like him at the weekend to work with?’

“He said, ‘no’.

“But there’s an orthopaedic junior doctor on call, he knows there is a registered consultant and team, he knows that but he didn’t know that was what he was being asked.”

The hospital will formally respond to the coroner explaining their position. They have 56 days in which to do this.

Dr Bene added: "We tried to explain it at the time [of the inquest] but he wanted a formal response."

She reassured the board saying: "By and large I can't remember the last time we have had to change something, it's usually an explanation."