Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has called on the government to hold an “urgent” summit to address the growing pressures facing the healthcare system this winter.
He pointed to the “rapidly deteriorating” situation at hospitals, following statistics released by NHS England yesterday that revealed accident and emergency department admissions had hit their highest level in 10 years.
Mr Burnham highlighted the knock-on problems for the police and fire services, which he claimed were now being required to transport patients to hospitals in the absence of ambulances.
He also claimed that a reduction of social care services over the winter has resulted in patients becoming “trapped” in hospital, because they have nowhere to be discharged to, and accused health secretary Jeremy Hunt of failing to prepare for the crisis.
“A&E performance across England has deteriorated significantly in recent weeks… the situation cannot be allowed to get any worse”
NHS workers, local councils, and emergency services must be brought together immediately to devise a plan that deals with this A&E crisis, said Mr Burnham in a letter to Mr Hunt.
The letter, sent yesterday, said: “A&E performance across England has deteriorated significantly in recent weeks. Patients are already being exposed to unacceptable levels of risk and the situation cannot be allowed to get any worse.
“Urgent action is needed to provide a coordinated response across government from all public services,” he wrote.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said Mr Hunt had been holding weekly meetings about A&E pressures since March last year.
“Alongside colleagues across government and the NHS nationally we continue to work with the local NHS to help support them through the winter,” said the spokeswoman.
She added: “We’ve also given the NHS a record £700m this winter for more doctors, nurses and beds.”
A series of summits were held last year in Northern Ireland to discuss pressures facing unscheduled and accident and emergency care there.
Senior health professionals and ministers attended the meetings in February and April, which followed a number of incidents highlighting the strain on Northern Ireland’s emergency services, including a major incident at the Royal Victoria Hospital.