Monday, 12 January 2015

RBH: A&E Crisis On Our Doorstep

At the end of last week the BBC was reporting that only 80.7% of patients in Accident and Emergency at the Royal Berkshire Hospital were being seen with the government bench-mark waiting time of 4 hours. 

This compared to the national target of 95% and a current average in English hospitals of 86.7%. 

However, the RBH is not alone in it's struggles, as A&E waits across England are at their worst level for a decade. 

So what is causing this nation-wide problem?

1. Lack of staff

The government has been known for some time that A&E units are struggling to recruit and retain staff.
The College of Emergency Medicines says each unit should have 10 consultants with the largest trusts needing up to 16. But the average number stands at just over seven. There are also shortages of A&E trained nurses. Evidence is emerging of staff moving abroad.
2. The 111 Helpline
The coalition government dumped the successful NHS Direct Helpline and replaced with the more troubled 111 line which has fewer clinically trained staff advising callers. This, it is believed, has led to more A&E referrals. 
3. GP access more restricted 
A recent national survey said that the proportion of patients saying it was not east to get through to their GP had jumped from 18% to 24% in two years. Some GPs also advise patients to go to A&E for treatment.
As we know in Reading, there are continuing threats to sustainable GP services.
4. Cuts to social care 
Hospitals are struggling to discharge patients as the councils care services have been cut and the number of older people getting help get by 29% over the last years - at a time of an ever older population many living with disabilities longer. They, too, are ending up in A&E. Two-thirds of emergency admissions are over 65 years old.
The government must not betray NHS patients or hard-working staff in the RBH A&E Department, by allowing this to continue. It's their choice.

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