Tameside MP Andrew Gwynne has condemned the government’s response to the A&E crisis that has left units across the country ‘at the point of collapse’.
The Labour MP for Denton and Reddish and Shadow Health Minister backed calls from Andy Burnham for an urgent summit meeting to help alleviate pressure on emergency departments.
The Conservative Party yesterday accused Labour of using the situation to generate headlines, with David Cameron claiming the NHS was being used as a ‘political football’.
Mr Gwynne said that the government was to blame for the crisis, due to the closure of walk-in centres, slashing of adult social care budgets, and the scrapping of NHS Direct.
He told MM: “We have been saying for two years now that A&E is at the point of collapse. It’s not correct to call it a winter crisis anymore; it’s an all-year-long crisis. Every week for the last year, A&Es have missed the government’s targets. The writing has been on the wall for some time.
“Historically, winter has always been the busiest time for A&E. But what we have seen for the last couple of years is A&E services operating above capacity all year round.
“The government does not have a plan to deal with this. They have set out what they would like in the future but there needs to be a plan for the here and now.
“We need this meeting to get everybody around a table and work out what part they have to play to try to solve this crisis now. We need to see some sense from the government that they recognise this is a problem.”
Figures released this week showed that the NHS had missed its A&E waiting time target for the last three months of 2014 and several hospitals have declared ‘major incident’ status.
Included in those was the Royal Bolton Hospital, which has since downgraded the major incident, with three Greater Manchester hospitals ranking among the 20 worst performing in England.
Mr Gwynne added that the Conservatives’ ‘sticking plaster’ approach to solving the crisis would be insufficient for embattled emergency departments.
He said: “It’s so unacceptable that people are being treated in tents or being left on trolleys in corridors, or having their operations cancelled. Those are like the bad old days of the NHS in the 1980s.
“We talk about targets but the reality is that it is people who are waiting too long to be treated and are stuck on trolleys in corridors. This affects the quality of people’s lives and we should never forget that.
“It’s very worrying that the NHS across Greater Manchester is operating at breaking point. The government doesn’t know what to do, and what we need is a plan so that these hospitals that are experiencing difficulties can get to a position where they are not turning people away.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the House of Commons yesterday that extra funds had been allocated for A&E departments this winter, with the Prime Minister claiming Labour had “no solutions to put forward.”
The summit called for by Mr Burnham in a letter to the Health Secretary would bring together local government, emergency services, and other NHS professionals to co-ordinate a response.
Martin Challender, of the Bolton branch of Unison, said: “We need urgent action to address the A&E crisis. The idea to have a national summit is a good one and the government should be welcoming it. We need unions, the government, and political parties to work together on this.
“It’s an immediate problem and a long term problem. The long term problem is bed closures, ward closures, and our growing population. There needs to be a response.
“It’s not just cuts to social care, but a growing demand for social care that all councils are struggling with. We have an aging population and that means an increased need for social care.”
Image courtesy of Duncan Hames via YouTube, with thanks.