In the week that fourteen hospitals declared ‘major incident’ status closing their A&E doors to many patients, I visited the Royal Oldham Hospital’s A&E department to see first-hand how local staff are coping with the pressure.
I was very impressed with the staff I met in A&E on Monday, especially the way they are coping with the increasing pressure, exacerbated by yet another winter crisis brought about by the Government’s damaging health policies.
‘Pressure’ was the word that I heard again and again from staff at all levels. And it’s no wonder really when you look at the most recent data which shows an 11% increase in ambulance admissions; monthly surges with ambulance queues and a pressure on beds; increasing acute admissions of frail elderly people as a result of cuts to social care, surges of acute paediatric admissions in the evenings – the list goes on and on.
Some staff did say that improved integration was required between primary, community and secondary care as well as social care. What they were describing is an integrated health and care system which is what Labour is advocating; this is starting to happen for example at the North Manchester site of Pennine Acute Hospitals Trust which is running an integrated care pilot at the moment and where they say they are coping more effectively.
But we also need more staff. Labour will rescue the NHS with a £2.5 billion a year Time to Care fund – on top of the coalition Government’s spending plans – to fund new staff, including 20,000 more nurses and 5,000 extra homecare workers across the country.
New figures this week have shown that England’s hospital A&E departments have experienced the worst quarter since records began. The statistics released by NHS England show that in October to December 2014, 407,844 patients waited over four hours to be seen compared to 227,400 in the same quarter last year.
The NHS also released data for the last fortnight of December, which shows the number of patients who were admitted, and waited up to 12 hours on a trolley for a bed to become free, almost quadrupled to 20,962 – up from 5,573 in those weeks last year.
It beggars belief that on the day when hospitals were declaring major incidents Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt gave NHS hospital bosses a four-hour deadline to provide four bullet points each about how to end the crisis in A&E departments. A move which simply highlights the astonishing lack of Government planning.
Labour has repeatedly warned David Cameron to get a grip on the growing crisis in A&E and ambulances services. He has failed to do so and has now left patients all over England exposed to unacceptable levels of risk.
There could be no clearer illustration of the Government’s failure to plan and get ahead of the very serious situation in which the NHS now finds itself. Their response smacks of panic when what is needed is planning and leadership.
The current situation in A&Es across the country is a crisis of David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt’s making and it is becoming abundantly clear that they have no idea how to turn it around.
Moreover, the Prime Minister’s central promise at the last election was to protect the NHS. It is now clear for all to see that he has put the NHS in intensive care. Patients and the public whose hospitals are in danger of being overwhelmed need answers today and what he will do to turn things around.
Local stats for Pennine Acute Trust (which includes ROH and other local A&Es in the Trust) shows in the week ending 21st December 83.6% of patients were seen within 4 hours at type 1 A&Es (against 95% target).
In the week ending 28th December 84.9% of patients were seen within 4 hours at type 1 (hospital) A&Es.
The full statistics can be accessed here
Nationally, major A&E departments (type 1) have not met the 95% target in any week since the end of July 2013 and all types of A&E services, which includes minor injuries units, have not met the 95% target since the end of September 2014. For the full statistics, click here