Last week, in response to the increasing pressures that the NHS and social care are facing, Labour convened a health summit chaired by Andy Burnham in Parliament. This included representatives from the Royal College of General Practitioners, the College of Emergency Medicine, Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Physicians and many more. In addition there were a number of frontline staff including Oldham’s Dr Zahid Chauhan, who gave their first hand experience of what is happening in the NHS.
The afternoon focussed on the immediate problems of Accident & Emergency departments, which as many of you will know are struggling to cope. In addition to three times more people waiting over 4 hours compared with Labour’s last year in office, ‘A&E diverts’ have increased by nearly a quarter too, as hospitals reach capacity and ambulances are turned away.
We looked at the causes of these problems as well as short and medium term solutions. It was clear from everyone there that we need to tackle these issues by looking at the whole health system – primary, community, seconday and social care. Immediate solutions included addressing workforce issues in A&E; it was said that some A&Es are understaffed by 50%. Other suggestions included addressing the lamentable 111 call system that has been introduced; concerns were raised that the contracts for these services were based on price not quality with targets for not referring calls to a clinician.
One of the key issues also identified was the high levels of A&E attendance and admissions of frail older people and also the delays in their being discharged. It was said that in many cases these admissions could have been prevented with adequate care in the community. So at the summit, Andy announced that if Labour was in Government now, £1.2bn of the £2.2bn NHS underspend would be used to address the current crisis in social care.
Andy has also written to Jeremy Hunt with proposals to address the issues raised.
Tomorrow, there’s an Opposition Day Debate, in the House of Commons, called by Labour to hold the Government to account for their inability to prevent or deal with the current crisis in A&E.