Mark criticises Ministers for A&E waiting times

(January 12, 2017)

Mark criticised government ministers about waiting times at Accident and Emergencies (A&E) during a House of Commons Chamber debate on 11th January 2017 about the NHS and Social Care Funding.

The debate was opened by MP for Leicester South, Jonathan Ashworth who noted 'that this House supports NHS England’s four-hour standard, which sets out that a minimum of 95 per cent of all patients to A&E will be treated within four hours; notes the widespread public and medical professional support for this standard; further notes that £4.6 billion has been cut from the social care budget since 2010 and that NHS funding will fall per head of population in 2018-19 and 2019-20; and calls on the Government to bring forward extra funding now for social care to help hospitals cope this winter, and to pledge a new improved funding settlement for the NHS and social care in the March 2017 Budget.'

Mark highlighted the significant issues faced by patients and NHS staff at Royal Preston Hospital.  He criticised delays in A&E Departments, delays in getting GP appointments, future GP shortages and pressures on the Mental Health Service.  He said:

'We have heard from Conservative Members about the so-called annual winter crisis, as though the situation we are in at the moment has always existed. Well, there have been crises in the past, but nothing like on the scale that we have seen recently. We are hearing about corridors being used as wards. I saw this in my own local hospital when I had to take my young son there. We went through into the ward and saw queues of trolleys with patients on them before my little son was seen to.

Last December, I wrote to the Department with a question—it was answered by the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr Dunne), who is in his place—about whether the Government could give the  figures for the number of patients left queuing in corridors. I was told that there were no such figures. The Government and the Minister are well aware that this is going on in hospitals up and down the country. If the Government do not collect those figures centrally, but hospitals themselves collect them, the Government should ask for them; and if hospitals do not collect them, they are not carrying out their duty of care to our constituents, because it is important that people know how many patients are being held in corridors.

We hear stories about ambulances being redirected and bed occupancies being well over the 85% recommended level, and in many cases well over 95%. We have heard about the £4.6 billion of cuts in social care funding. Already, while it has not been made explicit, we are hearing talk of downgrading the four-hour A&E wait. In Preston, as I know myself, it is difficult to get GP appointments. If I ring and ask to see the doctor I want to see, I am often told that I will have to wait two to three hours—I mean weeks—to see that doctor. It probably will be two to three hours, at the very least, if I go to the hospital and it is a serious case. It is no wonder A&E is in crisis. A whole cohort of doctors in their mid-to-late 50s are looking forward to retirement. The number of doctors has increased, as we heard from the Health Secretary today, but that increase is nowhere near matching the number of doctors who are leaving the service or going to work elsewhere.

On the social care sector, in Lancashire we have seen tens of millions of pounds of Government cuts forced on Lancashire County Council. That is leaving the elderly vulnerable and more likely to have accidents at home, putting pressure on A&E as well. The mental health services—the Cinderella services—continue not to get the support they deserve. Since the closure of the acute mental health ward in Royal Preston hospital, the Avondale unit, I have seen mental health patients being decanted around Lancashire because they cannot get the care and support that they need in Preston.

Over a five-month period to August last year, we saw a 16% increase in attendance at A&E at Royal Preston hospital. Over the same period, average daily patient attendance increased from 217 per day to 255 per day. A small percentage of that increase was due to the closure of Chorley and South Ribble hospital’s A&E. I am sure that if the Deputy Speaker, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr Hoyle), were here, he would echo what I have said. However, it is not all due to the closure of Chorley’s A&E. Many patients who would have gone to Chorley are now attending the A&E in Wigan, or elsewhere. The Government should not be allowing wards to close when the demand is so high. The daily average for the number of ambulance arrivals has increased from 68 to 91, according to the North West Ambulance Service. In the meantime, a return to a 24-hour accident and emergency service at Chorley hospital has been ruled out. At best, there will be a 12-hour A&E service sometime later this month.

Preston has one of the 134 of 138 A&E departments up and down the country in which 95% of patients are not seen within four hours. I believe it is an absolute disgrace that only four A&Es in the country are meeting the four-hour standard. It is testimony to the cuts and austerity being forced on the NHS and local government social services departments up and down the country.  I call on the Government to increase spending on social care and to fund the NHS further in this year’s Budget as a matter of urgency.

The full debate can be read here.



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