‘WE SIMPLY don’t have enough doctors working in emergency departments,’ the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) said yesterday adding that, ‘our emergency departments are chronically underfunded’.
The Royal College was reacting to the news which broke yesterday that regulators are to introduce an ‘A&E special measures’ regime. Such a regime is a precursor to the closure of A&E departments up and down the country.
RCEM continued: ‘There are long standing issues which together build pressure on emergency departments and compromise care. These include a shortage of emergency physicians, insufficient acute care beds and problems with social care capacity which means that hospitals are operating with high bed occupancy levels leading to overcrowding and harm.’
RCEM President, Dr Taj Hassan, commented: ‘At a time when staff are doing their utmost, recruitment and retention is a continuing struggle, what we don’t need is a “big stick” approach to management.
‘The key to creating stability is to create the right vision, culture and leadership supported by intelligent use of resources to transform the large locum spend budget into high quality permanent emergency physicians. Failure to do that will neither attract nor retain the expertise we need on the frontline of emergency care in this country.’
BMA member Anna Athow commented: ‘Every time a trust, or trust with “poorly performing” A&E, goes into special measures, this allows NHS England to send in special hit squads of turnaround directors, often from management consultants to look at the books and push through their reconfigurations and cuts.
‘The core system problems of insufficient funding are never addressed, of course. They always use the problems which they create for the A&Es as an excuse to make plans to close them. They use the fact that these A&Es are overwhelmed with patients and have not got the staff or funding to cope adequately as an excuse to plan to close them.
‘These measures send off alarm bells. Trade unions, the local public and campaigners must be alerted that these “special measures” can trigger closure and take action to stop the closures. This does mean demanding that the national unions act together to stop any more A&E closures.
‘This means that occupations of threatened departments will have to be planned to stop closures.’
The latest trusts to be placed in special measures are:
• St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
• Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust.
• University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust.