A&E units would struggle to cope with winter flu outbreak, MPs warn

Shortages of senior staff, disorganised local services and botched launch of NHS 111 phone line all blamed

Health Reporter

Shortages of senior staff, disorganised local services and the botched launch of the NHS 111 phone line mean Britain’s A&E services would struggle to cope with a major flu outbreak this winter, MPs have warned.

In a damning report on urgent care provision in the NHS, the House of Commons Health Select Committee found that emergency services were becoming “unsustainable” as demand increased.

Less than in one in five A&E wards had enough consultants on duty and new trainees were turning away from emergency care because of the demands, the report said. The health service was “flying blind” with senior figures at odds over the scale and cause of the increased pressures on A&E, and local health leaders were unsure which organisation or health board had overall responsibility for how GPs, A&Es and social care should link up.

MPs said that urgent action was needed to get patients to see senior doctors more quickly, adding that each local area must have an urgent care plan in place by the end of September, before pressures increase again over the winter. 

Committee member Barbara Keeley MP said that major improvements to consultant cover, 111 and social care provision needed to be made urgently.

Pointing out that last winter, which saw nine-year highs in A&E admissions, had passed without a “pandemic” she said: “It doesn’t look as if we’re prepared for anything like that.”

As MPs published their report, it was announced that NHS Foundation Trusts will take on 10,000 more clinical staff next year, after an unprecedented number of trusts missed waiting time targets at A&E last year.

Stephen Dorrell MP, the committee chair, said that it was “extraordinary” that only 17 per cent of A&E departments could guarantee consultant cover for a minimum of 16 hours a day during the working week, with figures even lower at weekends.

“We know that early assessment by a senior clinician can improve outcomes and accelerate a patient’s progress through hospital, but for this to happen there must be sufficient numbers of senior staff in the emergency department,” he said.

The plans to recruit more than 1,100 new permanent consultants, 1,200 junior doctors and 4,100 nurses, along with additional healthcare assistants, paramedics, social care and theatre staff, will cost an estimated £500m.

Although trusts are under ever-increasing financial pressure, with 5 per cent of NHS staff being cut over the next three years, most of these losses are expected to be among clerical and agency staff.

In their report, MPs were scathing in their assessment  of the new NHS 111 phone number which they said had not only failed to reduce pressure on casualty wards, but had actually encouraged patients to see A&E as their “first port of call” to avoid a “laborious triage process” and call handlers who were not trained clinicians.

The MPs’ report comes ahead of another review into emergency care by the NHS’ medical director Sir Bruce Keogh. Mr Dorrell said that he hoped Sir Bruce would take their recommendations into account.

“The A&E department is the safety valve,” he said. “When demand for care is not met elsewhere, people go to A&E because they know the door is always open. It is vital to ensure that the needs of patients who don’t need to be at A&E are properly met elsewhere so that those who do need to be there receive prompt and high quality care.”

Health Minister Lord Howe said the Government’s first focus in response to increased pressures on A&E was on “joining up services” to provide better care for the elderly. The ageing population has led to an increasing the number of patients with complex care needs reporting to A&E wards across the country.  
"We know A&E departments are under increasing pressure and it is testament to the hard work and commitment of NHS staff that there has been a marked and sustained improvement in A&E waiting times,” Lord Howe said.

However, on the same day, new figures revealed that nursing numbers had dropped by nearly 1,000 in just one month between March and April this year, leading Labour to accuse the Government of “ignoring warnings” on understaffing. The number of full time nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff in the NHS now stands at 307,939 – 3,000 lower than when the Coalition government took office in May 2010.

The number of hospital and community doctors also fell by more than 900 in April. 

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "The NHS simply cannot continue to take nursing cuts on this scale and maintain standards of patient care. Job losses on this scale are dangerous.”

Next year’s investment in new clinical staff comes amid a broader cut to the NHS workforce of 5 per cent over three years, which the Government claims will be found predominately among clerical and agency staff.

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
Liam and Zayn of One Direction play with a chimpanzee on the set of their new video for 'Steal My Girl'
music

Animal welfare charities have urged the boy band to cut the scenes

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into conflicts
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo, writes Paul Scholes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    DT Teacher - Resistant Materials

    £4800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: A full time...

    IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

    £24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

    SENCO

    £21000 - £36000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: SENCO - Benfleet - J...

    Do you want to work in Education?

    £55 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Are you looking to work in Edu...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker