Friday, 31 May 2013
Temporary closures increase as A&Es across England hit capacity
Information provided by the House of Commons Library shows a major increase in the number of occasions that A&Es in England were forced to close their doors to blue-light ambulances. Last year, the number of 'A&E diverts' jumped by almost a quarter - 24% - as hospitals reached capacity and were unable to cope with new ambulances.
Over recent weeks, hospitals including the Queens Hospital (Romford), Whipps Cross (Waltham Forest), Princess Royal (Bromley), Lewisham Hospital, Northwick Park, Newham, and King Georges (Ilford) have all turned ambulances away.
These diversions have occurred either when the ambulance is on the journey to hospital or in some cases after they have arrived. This wastes time for patients with emergency conditions before they can receive hospital care.
On Bank Holiday Monday, the Royal Liverpool Hospital had to divert patients to Fazakerley Hospital and Whiston Hospital for periods during both the morning and afternoon. Even when it re-opened ambulances had to queue and patients faced long-delays.
With the pressure on A&E showing no sign of abating, I called an emergency A&E Summit inviting NHS staff from a range of disciplines to give evidence to MPs - including ambulance staff, A&E doctors, nurses, GPs and community staff.
The Summit heard directly from staff about the pressures they face on a day-to-day basis.
A&Es across the country are in crisis and the pressure shows no sign of abating.We have yet more evidence that the situation has deteriorated significantly on this Government's watch, with ambulance diverts up by a quarter in the last year.
This is a crisis of their own making. Instead of casting round for others to blame, David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt need to accept responsibility and develop an urgent plan to relieve the pressure.
I am calling on the Health Secretary to suspend all planned A&E closures pending a personal review. The facts on the ground are changing fast and call into question the wisdom and safety of closing so many A&Es across England.
If convincing evidence can be produced to show lives can be saved by closing A&Es, Labour will not oppose them. But, as the pressure builds, the case is changing and the Health Secretary must err on the side of caution. The onus is on him to produce convincing evidence or drop these plans.
David Cameron and his Health Secretary have been caught out looking for scapegoats rather than finding solutions. They must cut the spin and get a grip without delay.