Hospital accident wards 'are lacking key staff'

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The Independent Online
MANY accident and emergency departments fail to give an adequate service because of understaffing, lack of specialist training and poor communications, a report says today, writes Celia Hall.

The survey of 149 departments by the magazine Which? Way to Health found that more than half had only one A & E consultant, not enough to provide 24-hour cover.

Only half had an emergency team available 24 hours for heart attacks and one in eight had no room for in which patients could be seen in private, for example, for gynaecological emergencies.

It found that only one-third of the departments had a bereavement counsellor trained in breaking bad news to relatives. While most had on-call cover from a paediatrican, nearly 70 per cent had no registered children's nurse on the staff.

Three out of four did not have one nurse and one doctor trained in the nationally accepted Advance Trauma Life Support, on duty at all times.

A quarter did not have lavatories accessible to wheelchairs.

Dr John Thurston, consultant in charge of the accident and emergency department at Queen Mary's Hospital, Roehampton, said: 'We acknowledge that there are weaknesses in the system and we are working away at them.'

The association has called for a specialist to be present or available in any department seeing more than 20,000 people a year. Which? used this criterion for assessing manpower provision.