‘Alarm bells ringing’ in A&E wards


Published: Sunday 23rd November 2014 by The News Editor

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Concerns have been raised over delays in the publication of reports expected to highlight the pressure hospitals in England are facing this winter.

Labour said that the failure to put out weekly winter pressures situation reports “sends alarm bells ringing” as A&E wards struggle to cope with demand.

The reports set out data on cancelled operations and the numbers of ambulances directed away from A&Es.

They were published weekly from November to April last winter and were expected to offer comparable data over the same period one year on.

NHS England has said that this year the updates will be released from December onwards without offering any explanation for the delay.

It comes as official A&E performance figures revealed that a key target for 95% of patients to be admitted or treated within four hours has now been missed for 70 consecutive weeks.

Emergency admissions in English hospitals in the second week of November were the highest on record.

A major incident is still ongoing at Colchester Hospital in Essex following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which found “unprecedented” levels of A&E demand.

And hospitals in Peterborough, Portsmouth and King’s Lynn have all reportedly issued “black alerts” regarding their A&E services since mid-October.

This usually means that bed capacity has been reached and patients arriving at A&E must be taken to another hospital or that routine operations must be cancelled to free up bed space.

Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne said: “It is very important that situation reports are published right across the winter period.

“The fact that we do not have any comparative data for this year sends alarm bells ringing.

“Pressure is piling up on A&Es, so it is no surprise that individual hospitals are flagging up problems before the winter kicks in.

“Jeremy Hunt’s problem is that this Government has spent £3 billion on a top down reorganisation of the NHS that no one wanted.

“It has been a distraction from the real problems in the NHS and particularly in A&Es.

“We need a concerted effort to tackle the A&E crisis before it brings down the NHS. It is a barometer of how the wider NHS is working and points to wider problems.”

Dr Sarah Pinto-Duschinsky, director of operations and delivery for NHS England, asked people to consider visiting their local pharmacy or calling the NHS 111 non-emergency number before going to A&E.

She said: “This past week saw continued increases in the number of patients seeking care – 2,300 more emergency admissions than the week before, and almost 6,000 up on the same week this time last year.

“This is the highest number of emergency admissions since publication of weekly data began in November 2010.

“A&E attendances are also rising, at 429,200 this week up from 418,300 the previous week, and a sharp increase of more than 22,000 for the same week last year.

“The NHS is pulling out all the stops to meet this rising demand, with strong joint working locally between hospitals, ambulances, GPs, home health services and local councils, supported by £700 million of ringfenced investment to open extra beds and open seven day services.”

A spokeswoman for NHS England said: “We continue to be the only country in the world publishing weekly A&E data and will be providing additional weekly information on winter NHS services and activity from week beginning December 8.

“The MyNHS site now also includes a far broader collection of data in one place than has ever been published before.”

The Department of Health said that NHS England decides when to publish data independently from the Health Secretary.

Published: Sunday 23rd November 2014 by The News Editor

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