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Labour calls for 'urgent' summit to address growing A&E crisis


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”

Andy Burnham

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.


Readers' comments (8)

  • It is patently obvious that if you close A&E departments up and down the country those remaining are going to struggle, especially during the winter months. So why are the politicians wringing their hands now pretending this was not expected to happen? If you are new to the area (or even country) then you may not have a GP, so have no choice but to go to A&E if you are unwell. Even those who have GP's may feel a wait of even a couple of days may be too long if they are in pain or very worried about themselves or a loved one. The only answer is to make the GP service more user friendly to reduce misuse of the A&E and to increase capacity in the existing A&E departments. You cannot cut services yet continue to increase patients expectations, it is a recipe for disaster!

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  • So "...Mr Hunt had been holding weekly meetings about A&E pressures since March last year..."

    and yet it still comes as a complete surprise to all that the mess happens!

    I wish that I was as good at planning.

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  • Of course they are because Labour have turned this into a political exercise. The 4 hr mantra should be interpreted with a pinch of salt as well. Some patients should be seen within 4 mins while others can wait 4 weeks. There are too many people using the NHS and National it isn't,it's international and the world knows it but no politican will say as it has become a sacred cow and a vote loser.

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  • when will they learn a meeting or piece of paper never saved anyone! £ 700m for doctors & Nurses that are not available as demand is so huge and the shortfall so great. They need to fund appropriately all year around - look at the reasons why people are attending A&E in such numbers and address that then look at why they stay in Trusts so long and address that to get a sustainable flow going throughout the year. The increasingly aging population was absolutely predictable, but not planned for -while "dreaming" of utopia where everything is delivered closer to home by Primary Care services (that are not in place) or Social Services (that are not coping). This cannot be solved overnight as it didnt occur overnight new schools are being built to cope with demand for places........interestingly no similar plan to cope for increasing healthcare demand in primary or secondary care or for training places to ensure safe staffing from homegrown staff in years to come. It is not beynd the wit of man to sort this regardless of political affiliations -it does however seem to beyond the will of man to sort it out ....unless it is an election year where they will make alot of noise to gain votes but not deliver real improvements for NHS staff or the patients they serve, once the counting is done. So prepare for a case of deja vu for next year!

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  • it isn't just A and E GP surgeries are in crisis too as are all areas of the NHS a[part from the people in government

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  • £700 million can buy a lot of bunkbeds!

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  • Cut money for social care, what do you think's going to happen when people dependent on support are ready to leave the acute hospitals? I suppose a snazzy summit with a bit of politiking in an election year will give these parasites in Westminster to prance about and boost their egos.

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  • Without mincing words, it does appear the present conservative government has lost its bearing by playing game with how best applicants should be selected and trained as nurses. Presently, the way things are going with NHS is enough signal to all and sundry that all is not well with the method used in training nurses in the country. The earlier changes are made, the better for us all. As in Bolton, student nurses should not be made to pay for their trainings, as this may make things mare intricate to understand. In fact, rather than admit people who less enthusiastic to handle the demands of the course during training, consideration should be given to applicants with life experience that will make them excel in the programme.

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