Doctors’ leaders are today calling on all politicians to not repeat the mistakes of the past, which have left A&Es across the country bursting at the seams tackling winter pressures, and to commit to having an open and honest public debate to find real solutions to the problem.
A&E departments across England have experienced one of the worst winters on record, with the NHS missing its four hour A&E waiting time figure every week since the beginning of November and 17 hospitals declaring major incidents due to overwhelming pressure.
Now new figures from the BMA’s quarterly Omnibus survey show that doctors on the ground have seen first-hand the effect of pressures on patient care, with 29% experiencing a ‘black alert’ – issued when a hospital reaches capacity and has to turn away patients – an increase of 22 percentage points since the same period last year, and 48% experiencing breaches in A&E targets.
This comes at a time when 65% of doctors across both primary and secondary care are reporting increases in patient waiting times – a rise of 18 percentage points on the same time last year.
Yet the political response to the crisis in A&E departments has been a series of headline grabbing initiatives and sticking plaster policies to bailout accident and emergency departments, rather than developing a long-term, sustainable solution:
-August 2013: the Government announced a £500m bailout for struggling A&Es – this was not new money and was rather taken from elsewhere in the Department of Health’s “own efficiency savings”. Even the Prime Minister conceded it “a short term measure” and that more needed to be done to improve the NHS.
-November 2013: the Government confirmed it was injecting another £250m for the coming winter. At the time the Health Secretary said: “This is a serious, long-term problem, which needs fundamental changes to equip our A&Es for the future.”
-November 2014: the Government announced £300m worth of emergency funding for winter pressures, on top of £400m announced during the summer. A recent report found that less than one per cent of this money actually went to front line A&E services.
The BMA is now calling on all politicians to stop playing games with A&Es, and to commit to having an open and honest public debate to find real solutions to the problem ahead of winter 2015 and beyond.
Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: “Sticking plaster solutions won’t solve the long-term challenges faced by A&E. The time has come for the politicians to stop playing games with emergency care and commit to having an open and honest public debate about the future of the NHS.”
Read more on the BMA’s No More Games campaign.