SENIOR emergency doctors could walk out over hospital plans to tackle winter pressures.

Bosses at Great Western Hospital want to change the working patterns for their acute medical unit consultants.

But it could lead to the “departure” of some of the medics, GWH bosses were warned.

The changes to the staff rotas would ensure that there are more consultant doctors available later into the evening at the acute medical unit. The unit unit takes emergency patients referred by their GP or the emergency department.

According to the hospital’s winter plan, the change will better reflect “the pattern of acute admissions” – with patients admitted in the evenings.

By changing the working patterns of senior doctors, it will allow “better management of the medical patients’ admission process”, GWH said.

Currently, doctors are being consulted on the rota. The consultation comes after “reservations” on the part of doctors.

GWH’s winter plan, which was shared with the hospital trust’s board of directors this week, waned: “If the rota has to be pushed through, it may lead to the departure of some of the team, which will make cover very challenging this winter.”

New rotas for consultant doctors in the GWH’s emergency department will be put in place by November 2017.

The changes, which GWH say have already been agreed with ED consultants, will help the hospital meet the national target of seeing emergency patients within four hours of their arrival at the hospital.

A new waiting area in the acute medical unit would help doctors assess patients arriving in the unit from the emergency department, GWH bosses said. The redesign, which is expected to be complete by early November, will see an increase in the number of trolleys available in the unit.

The changes come as NHS bosses warned that this could be of one of the worst winters on record.

Last month, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens told a conference of NHS leaders: “We know we’re going to have more hospital beds open, we know we are better prepared, but we also know that the pressures are going to be real.

“We know that there is a great deal of work to be done over the next six to eight weeks with our partners in local authorities to put the NHS on the right footing for the winter ahead.”

GWH bosses will introduce a raft of other measures over the next few months to ensure that they can meet winter demand. They include:

:: A new team of specialist heart nurses.

:: More senior nurses have been asked to change working hours to make sure there is better manager and nurse cover until 8pm in the week.

:: Stopping “elective” treatment, such as non-emergency surgery, over the holiday period.

:: Commandeering eight beds on the Shalbourne Suite, GWH’s private patient ward, for use by NHS patients.

Expanding on the comments made in the winter plan about changes to consultants’ working times, a GWH spokesman said: “These proposed changes will help us to have the right staff on duty at the times when we expect to be at our busiest during the winter months, such as in the early evening.

“As is standard practice in the public sector, any potential changes to the working arrangements of staff are subject to a formal consultation period, which we are currently working through.

“All of our staff are dedicated to doing what’s is best for patient and the aim of this consultation is gauge feedback before any final decisions are made.”