Unless causes of the strain being put on hospital A&E departments are tackled some are likely to reach “breaking point” this winter, health service leaders are warning.
Research by the NHS Confederation says misleading debate about the reasons behind the pressures emergency departments are facing is stopping the NHS from addressing the real causes.
And the results of its survey have prompted shadow health secretary Andy Burnham to suggest that Prime Minister David Cameron “get a grip” on the issues which have left emergency departments “on the brink of a serious crisis”.
A majority of those polled said they think the strain on the service is down to a rising number of frail, older people with long-term problems attending A&E, as well as difficulties in discharging or transferring patients into appropriate further care.
Predicting how the NHS will cope over the winter the confederation said: “A prolonged period of cold, a rapid increase in the acuity of patients presenting in A&Es or a lengthy norovirus season would be all it would take to bring many departments to breaking point.”
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The NHS Confederation poll found that less than half of the health service leaders questioned thought their organisation was likely or very likely to meet the 95% four-hour waiting target in October, November and December.
So far this year across England Type 1 A&Es have achieved the standard in only eight weeks.
Solutions suggested included earlier notice about funding designed to ease winter pressures, raising public awareness to ensure that patients are aware of alternatives to A&E and incentives for staff to work in the departments.
Source: Bournemouth Echo