Editorial: Time is running out for A&E

The doctors’ plea is as stark, the despair is palpable and the situation is only worsening

Share

The NHS has come to a pretty pass when hospital doctors are forced to warn that they “can no longer guarantee the provision of safe and high quality medical and nursing care”. Such is the crisis in Britain’s accident and emergency rooms, however, that 18 heads of casualty departments in the West Midlands have written to alert their hospitals’ management to just that.

The letter – published in this newspaper today – comes hot on the heels of the admission from the NHS watchdog, earlier this month, that pressure on A&E departments is “out of control” and “unsustainable”. And it does much to illustrate what so damning an assessment means on the ground.

The doctors’ plea is as stark as it is frightening. They write of “toxic overcrowding” that too often leaves medics patching up patients in corridors; of clinical incidents and complaints on the rise; and of their concern that “for every incident reported, there are multiple examples of substandard care that go under the radar”.

The despair is palpable. And the situation is only worsening. A&E attendance continues to rise, and a growing proportion of patients are elderly, often with multiple chronic conditions. Meanwhile, the pressure on clinicians is putting off potential recruits, exacerbating already acute staffing shortages. “It is not the case of standards slipping, but the inevitable consequence of being forced to work in sub-standard conditions,” the doctors opine. Quality care is already being substituted by merely safe care – and even that may not be possible for long.

There are several problems, here. The trickiest is the demographic change requiring a radical rethink of our approach to healthcare. But there are more immediate issues, too. One is that, since GPs relinquished responsibility for out-of-hours services, many patients no longer trust them and visit A&E instead. Another is the perverse incentives created by NHS funding mechanisms. Both must be addressed – and fast. How many more warnings of crisis does the Health Secretary need?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Female Support Workers / Carers - From £8.00 per hour

£8 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To assist a young family with the care ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

£55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne  

To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'

Lee Williams
 

Pete Doherty: To anyone struggling with addiction, just hang on — for more than ten years I've been powerless, but there's a way out

Pete Doherty
US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines