A&E closures putting lives at risk


THE MASS closure of A&E’s at hospitals around the country has created a situation where many patients now live in A&E ‘black spots,’ where the nearest hospital emergency department is too far away for a patient to reach in time to save their life.

The government’s own watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) revealed yesterday that Accident & Emergency (A&E) departments are under so much pressure that ‘safety is compromised’.

For example, in 2014 in west London, the Hammersmith Hospital A&E was shut. Central Middlesex A&E was also closed. Now Ealing Hospital A&E is threatened. The West London Council of Action has mobilised the local community to fight the closure, as it will leave the entire area without emergency health care. In its report, the CQC warns that patients are being denied care they need, with half of A&E departments failing.

Responding to CQC’s annual State of Care report, BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘It is clearly worrying when almost half of A&E departments are rated as requiring improvement or inadequate, and more than a third of mental health trusts are not meeting safety targets. 

‘In a year that saw a record number of patients spending longer than 12 hours in A&E and waiting lists for operations hit a decade-long high, these figures are a reflection of the “inadequate” resources and capacity that hospitals are running on that cannot meet the rocketing demand for services. 

‘This was highlighted by the results of a major survey recently published by the BMA of nearly 8,000 doctors, which revealed that 97 per cent felt that lack of resources is affecting quality and safety of patient care.’

Tom Sandford, Director of RCN England, said: ‘These figures sound the alarm bells for the NHS as we head towards winter. Admissions are up on last year and the four hour target has been missed every month since July 2015. Perhaps most worryingly, the government’s 62-day referral target for urgent cancer treatment has not been met for five years.

‘This represents untold suffering for patients and families who know all too well that a delay in beginning treatment can mean the difference between life and death. August saw more patients stuck in hospital than last December as delayed transfers of care creep upwards.

‘The lack of enough nursing staff to provide safe and effective care feeds into these systemic issues threatening to bring our health care system grinding to a halt as the cold weather sets in. Budget day is approaching and the £20bn promised to the NHS can’t come soon enough.’

Dave Wiltshire, secretary of the All Trade Union Alliance (ATUA) said: ‘The trade unions must fight to stop the closures of A&Es and re-open all A&Es already shut down. All the health unions, backed up by the entire trade union movement must come out in an all-out strike to bring this government down. The working class must take the power, and form a workers’ government that will ensure that the NHS is given everything it needs to flourish.’