People often lament that the start of January is dark and depressing.
Yet it does provide an annual opportunity to do a hard reset on life and work out new goals and focus on new objectives.
It’s a shame this same opportunity to start afresh isn’t being afforded to A&E departments, caught up in the maelstrom as they cope with heavier than expected demand this winter.
Experts had warned this would be a tough winter. For already-overstretched hospitals, it has been not only worse than usual but also worse than expected. They don’t have enough beds or enough staff to take care of patients, or adequate adult and social care services to enable them to discharge people promptly.
There are several reasons why news bulletins keep bringing headlines of yet another hospital plunged into emergency hell. A&E units are bearing the brunt of these, with the media’s cameras and notebooks outside their doors along with the ambulance crews.
There are too many patients and, as Nursing Times has said repeatedly over the past few years, too few staff to provide adequate care. The only surplus these days is one of cuts.
There is a bed shortage, so patients cannot be moved from A&E into the appropriate wards. Meanwhile, the cuts to adult social care have meant that there is nowhere for patients to be discharged to. If you want to know why A&E is in crisis, you need to look both deeper into hospital and into the community.
Sarah Wollaston, chair of the government’s health select committee and a former GP, said on BBC news that she did not want politicians to opine on the “crisis”.
While she is right, and what A&Es don’t need is a bunch of politicians using their plight to score points off each other, politicians do need to recognise that the pressure they have put trusts under, while not increasing resources, has led to this situation.
Maybe it’s the inability to get a GP appointment, maybe it’s cuts to adult social care, maybe it’s a lack of beds or a lack of staff - it may be all of these reasons and more. But staffing and resourcing are undoubtedly playing a part, and those running the NHS from the top must recognise that sorting matters out is urgent. The current circumstances should be a serious warning to politicians. It’s time for action to prevent stories like those we’ve seen in the past few days becoming the accepted norm.
Jenni Middleton, editor
Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed