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Burnham: NHS faces dangerous winter


Almost 6,000 nursing jobs have been lost under the coalition government, with accident and emergency departments on the brink of a “dangerous winter”, Labour’s health spokesman Andy Burnham has warned.

The shadow health secretary has called for an end to the job cuts and urged the government to ensure A&Es have enough staff to provide safe care during the winter.

New figures suggest a further 450 nursing jobs have been cut, bringing the total close to 6,000 since May 2010, Mr Burnham told MPs.

The Labour frontbencher also accused health secretary Jeremy Hunt of using diversion tactics to disguise problems within the NHS, with the latest resulting in immigration being blamed.

But Mr Hunt said we would not listen to anyone from Labour when it came to providing safe care for patients.

Speaking during health questions, Mr Burnham told Mr Hunt: “New figures this morning show a further 450 nursing jobs have been cut, taking the total close to 6,000 under this government. But what were [the government] doing last night? Voting against safe staffing levels in the Lords.

“Will you now listen to the experts, stop the job cuts and take immediate action to ensure all A&Es have enough staff to provide safe care this winter?”

Mr Hunt replied: “We’ll listen to no-one on that side of the Commons when it comes to safe care for patients in the NHS.

“They (Labour) presided over a system where whistle-blowers were bullied, patients were ignored and regulators felt leaned on if they tried to speak up about poor care. That is a record to be ashamed of.”

Earlier, Mr Burnham said Mr Hunt had been in post for a year and the health secretary’s style was “everything is always someone else’s fault”.

Mr Burnham continued: “Lazy GPs, uncaring nurses, the last government and today more diversion tactics. Now it’s immigration to blame.

“But there’s an inconvenient truth that gets clearer day by day and you can’t spin this away - A&E is getting worse and worse and worse on your watch. We’ve had ambulance queues, a treatment tent in a car park, now police cars doubling for ambulances with a patient dying on the backseat.

“The NHS stands on the brink of a dangerous winter. Will you today set out in detail what you personally are doing to avert crisis?”

Mr Hunt replied: “Can I welcome you back to your place, it’s a great pleasure to see you there even if it’s not entirely what [Labour leader Ed Miliband]wanted.

“With respect to A&E, if you are shocked that I breached the A&E target for one quarter last year, you’ll want to make a full apology for the fact that you breached the A&E target for two quarters when you were health secretary.”

Mr Burnham countered that Mr Hunt’s “complacent spin” is no good to the NHS.

He added: “If you want to compare records let’s do that. Under me 98% of people were seen within four hours, under you over one million people in the last year waiting more than four hours in A&E. Not only a winter crisis but the first summer A&E crisis in living memory.”

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Dangerous levels of staffing has already started. The trust where i work have seen ambulance after ambulance turn up with no let off. Patients have been stacked up in the middle of the department on trollies to the point we have no room to move. This is happening everyday night and day. Its unsafe for the patients as there just isn't enough staff to ensure patient safety. Each day I come home and thank god that nothing serious has happened on my shift. Some of these politicians need to take a hard long look at what is going on, they need to just turn up without announcing their visit so they can get a true picture of the pressure medical and nursing staff are under. I love my job, but i'm scared, scared that one day due to staffing levels a serious untowards incident will happen. Will things change if that happens?? unlikely, not enough money is going into the NHS, politicians look at it as a money pit. They need to sit down and talk to those nurses on the floor, not the managers and discuss ways of reducing inappropriate visits to the AE department, maybe then the politicians will get a clearer picture of why the service is under so much pressure. More nurses and more doctors are needed this winter, not just in AE but also in the community. Community nurses play a large part in trying to keep a patient at home by ensuring their illness is managed. After the last 2 weeks I have had all i can see is it getting worse, not better. If more staff are not recruited existing staff will end up being stressed up to their eyeballs resulting in them having to take time out by going sick so they can de-stress before returning back to work, and thus the circle begins again!....... Something needs to be done now, not in 5 years time, as mentioned before, more nurses are needed in the community, they do such a valuable job by managing patients in their own home, just a shame that the community teams are also understaffed which also begs the question 'how safe are their patients?'...........

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  • its ok my hospital has an emergency underground nuclear shelter which is fully equipped and operational at short notice with operating theatres and bunk beds in sets of four for 150 patients. the only problems I can foresee is how, if the need arises, you can do CPR or carry out other emergency care especially on the top bunk and the fact that there is no accommodation for any members of the staff of whom there are 5000 employees and the majority of patients in a 1000 bedded-hospital! tourists with valid ID and insurance are more than welcome although they have to pay and healthcare costs are quite high.

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  • I've worked under successive governments from the 80's onwards, and it has become clear to me that under a conservative government the NHS, and especially the status of nurses, carers and ambulance staff is infinitely worse.

    Whilst we had our gripes about the last government, and moaned that they were obsessed with targets especially in ED, at least we had enough staff to cope; and enough primary care staff (gp's, nurses, carers in the community) to cope with the resultant pressures once discharged.

    I met Andy Burnham on 2 occasions, once whilst he was speaking for the Hillsborough victims (whose families admired his stance) and again this year at a conference when he was speaking for the NHS. As far as politicians go, he was sincere and rhetoric was kept to a minimum, and he made no silly promises. But at least he was genuine when spoke about nurses.

    Hunt, on the other hand, is an odious little tory toad who does what he is told by the tory grandee's who care little for provision for the minions as they all have their own Harley Street mob. They are also frothing at the mouth at the money they are going to make when they can eventually sell the NHS off completely to their pals in private medical companies and big corporations in the UK and the US, many of whom are on the boards of said companies and stand to pocket millions.

    I have cared for the previous Labour MP in our constituency whilst in practice, (I am also an ENP in ED), who was lovely and mingled in with everyone else, and expected no privileges.

    The current tory MP's wife joined our practice, with her family including the MP, after flouncing out of her previous practice as she had to wait 3 days for an appointment to see a GP. She called this "disgusting." Welcome to the real world luv, you still will have to mingle in with the minions in our pratice too. Funnily enough we have not seen hide nor hair of them. Because they all go private!

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  • I remember clearly Kenneth Clark calling ambulance staff "glorified taxi drivers" in 1990 whilst he was Health Secretary.

    And A&E were treated as they are now.

    We also no what Jeremy Hunt thinks of us.

    I cant wait to retire, it will only get worse under this government.

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  • Anonymous | 25-Oct-2013 10:05 am

    worse still when you are elderly and in need of health care!

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