AN NHS boss says creating a new accident and emergency department to serve North Yorkshire’s coastal and remote rural areas could help solve long-standing staff recruitment issues at a general hospital.

Simon Cox, of North Yorkshire clinical commissioning group, told a meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s scrutiny of health committee plans to move combined emergency, assessment and critical care services into purpose-built facilities at Scarborough Hospital were now at an advanced stage and were very likely to go ahead.

The meeting heard the new combined department would enable “workforce efficiencies and delivery of a service model that is both responsive to need and resilient to increasing levels of activity”, at the hospital which has previously been forced to declare major incidents due to spikes in demand.

Mr Cox was speaking just over after a year after the Care Quality Commission rated the hospital as needing improvement, raising concerns over York Teaching Hospitals’ NHS Trusts’ plans to ensure it had “sufficient numbers of suitably qualified, skilled, competent and experienced clinical staff to meet the needs of patients”.

Over the past decade North Yorkshire has seen numerous NHS services downgraded or closed altogether, such as Thirsk’s Lambert Memorial Hospital and Northallerton’s 24-hour maternity unit, on patient safety grounds due to an inability to attract sufficient numbers of staff.

Councillor Caroline Goodrick welcomed the development of the A&E department, saying it was very important for rural areas, but said she was concerned over its staffing, given the difficulties the NHS has previously had in attracting staff to work in Scarborough.

Mr Cox said maintaining a workforce was the biggest challenge at the hospital, probably due to its coastal location, adding: “I would have a nervousness about the ability to recruit all of the staff.”

However, Mr Cox said there were various factors in the hospital’s favour, including September seeing the first cohort of 30 nurses to complete training in Scarborough in two decades and the recent recruitment of medics.

He said the investment in the accident and emergency department would also demonstrate commitment to the hospital and could lead to further investments.

Mr Cox added: “If you are a young aspiring clinician who wants to work in a critical care unit you are more likely to choose somewhere that has a modern purpose-built facility than somewhere that is too small and is really past its sell-by date.”