A nursing union has highlighted the “crisis” facing the North-East NHS by publishing details of what it calls a “massive spike” in long accident and emergency waits in the last four years.
The figures from the Royal College of Nursing contrast the small numbers of long A&E waits in the week ending May 8 in 2011 with the same week this year.
They show that at six out of eight North-East accident and emergency units the number of patients who had to wait between four and 12 hours from the decision to admit to actual admissions had rocketed between 2011 and 2015.
In 2011 only 15 patients had to wait between four and 12 hours until they were admitted – but by 2015 this figure had risen to 141.
The largest rise was seen at the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, where the number facing long waits for admission to A&E rose from eight in 2011 to 47 this year.
The second highest figure was recorded at the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust where the number facing long waits to be admitted rose from zero to 37.
At the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust the number facing long waits jumped from six in 2011 to 14 in the corresponding week this year.
Mr Turp added: “What this basically tells you is that, without significant extra funding from central government, our beloved NHS simply will not be able to cope in the future.”
A spokesman for County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust said:
“Pressure on A&E departments has increased significantly since 2011 as reflected in these figures.
“We have taken a number of steps to improve the patient’s experience in our A&E departments, and to reduce waiting times.
“There is more to be done, which is why we have announced plans to extend the A&E departments at Darlington Memorial and University Hospital of North Durham.”
Source – Northern Echo, 12 May 2015
An NHS whistleblower has claimed that the A&E crisis is being made worse because highly trained NHS paramedics across the country are being poached by Atos and Capita to do assessments for personal independence payment (PIP), instead of saving lives.
There is a severe shortage of paramedics throughout the UK, but Hampshire – where our whistleblower works – has a particularly acute problem. South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) had over 250 vacancies for paramedics in November of this year.
Our whistleblower claimed that the situation was being made even worse because experienced paramedics are leaving to take up full time posts with Atos, who carry out PIP assessments in the region.
Paramedics in the NHS usually have to train to degree level, yet salaries range from just £21,478 to £27,901 for the most experienced paramedics. In addition, the job involves a good deal of shift work and unsocial hours.
Atos, on the other hand, offer paramedics who join them as full-time PIP assessors a salary of £32,000 plus private medical insurance, life assurance, income protection insurance and no unsocial hours.
It is hardly surprising if paramedics choose to make the move to Atos, or to Capita who offer a very similar package.
The effects of the paramedic shortage can be seen on a daily basis. Just this week an injured cyclist was left lying on the pavement for more than two hours in central London whilst waiting for paramedics to arrive.
The paramedic shortage is also taking desperately needed cash from the NHS. In Hampshire 16% of paramedic cover is currently provided by much more expensive private companies while health trusts around the UK are having to advertise abroad to try to attract paramedics to the UK.
Paramedics are also vital for reducing pressure on A&E departments by providing effective treatment on the spot. In many cases this reduces the amount of time spent on patients when they arrive at A&E or removes the need for a visit altogether.
Dismissal for speaking out
The SCAS employee who contacted us about the crisis was afraid to speak out publically because staff have received an email this week warning them that telling outsiders about problems in SCAS, especially online, could lead to dismissal. The email threatened:
“Everything you say online is subject to the same disciplinary procedure that covers your conduct in the real world. There have been disciplinary hearings that have resulted in staff being dismissed for breaches to the SCAS Code of Conduct.
“Don’t let this happen to you!
“We value our staff and it is important that when staff and the organisation are feeling the pressure, that we try and provide the appropriate support through internal and external means rather than airing frustrations that may damage public confidence.
“If you have any concerns, queries or want to ask us about this please do contact us. In the meantime for more information go to:
“The SCAS Discipline & Conduct Policy & Procedure”
We contacted SCAS and asked them how many staff have left to work for Atos or Capita in the last six months. A spokesperson told us:
“South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust are unable to advise on the numbers of staff who have left the organisation to join the organisations you have named. Unless staff are leaving to join another NHS Trust, they are not obliged to inform us of the name of their new employer.”
SCAS also denied that the recent email to staff was related to concerns about paramedics leaving to join the private sector.
Cash before lives
Atos and Capita have not even begun the massive task of assessing millions of existing disability living allowance claimants for PIP as part of the Coalition’s effort to reduce benefits spending. When they do, they will need to take on hundreds more assessors. How many of these will be poached from the NHS?
The crisis in paramedic numbers is not new, it has been growing since 2010. There would have been nothing to prevent the DWP stipulating in the PIP contracts for Atos and Capita that they did not recruit paramedics. There would be nothing to stop them doing so now.
The fact that they don’t reinforces the impression that, for the DWP, saving cash is always more important than saving lives.
Source – Benefits & Work, 20 Dec 2014
Parts of Teesside risk being “overwhelmed by cuts and closures” to NHS services, a Labour MP told the House of Commons.
Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop blasted government cuts to local NHS services in a Queens Speech health debate in the House of Commons on Monday.
He said he used the debate as a way of showing how badly NHS cuts were affecting his constituency and said: “Over the space of a few weeks from this April my constituency has been overwhelmed by a perfect storm of cuts and closures pushed through by NHS England and the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).”
He said Skelton faced losing one of its GP practices, a nurse practitioner clinic and the attached pharmacy, which served socially deprived areas with “grave” health needs.
The fact the CCG was also looking at ending minor injuries provision at East Cleveland and Guisborough Hospitals, and threatening the closure of the GP surgery at Park End, in Middlesbrough, were additional “threats“, he said.
“The cumulative impact of these cuts and closures will increase the likelihood of people going to A&E at James Cook University Hospital, even when this is not appropriate” he added.
“When that A&E has struggled to cope with demand over recent years, these cuts are a false economy.“
He had sought meetings with government ministers to explore alternatives but said these were rebuffed.
A spokesman for NHS South Tees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “At the end of April 2014, NHS South Tees CCG launched a public consultation that focuses on proposals to improve community services for vulnerable people, the elderly and those with long-term health conditions.
Minor injury services at Guisborough and East Cleveland treated between two-ten people per day compared to 60 at similar services, according to CCG figures.
“Urgent care, including minor injury services, will be provided from Redcar Primary Care Hospital,” he added.
People are being urged to attend a public drop-in event tomorrow (Wednesday, June 11″) at the Freebrough Enterprise Centre in Brotton from 5.30pm to 7pm.
More events are planned in Guisborough, Middlesbrough and Redcar. More details are on southteesccg.nhs.uk or on 01642-745318.
Source – Northern Echo, 10 June 2014
Family doctors have raised concerns that the NHS is being deliberately undermined by Government and persistent negative headlines.
More than 90% of medics and practice managers polled by Newcastle and North Tyneside Local Medical Committee believe the health service is being unfairly damaged.
Doctors fear that Government reforms brought in by the Health and Social Care Act are increasing commercialisation and privatisation of the NHS, while some medics have accused the Coalition of using GPs as political scapegoats to damage the profession’s reputation at a time of wide-scale change.
Dr George Rae, chairman of the North East British Medical Association, said: “This NHS survey is very worrying because it is showing a huge percentage of concern among the profession.
“It is again saying that unless we start to protect the NHS and stop undermining it, we are in danger of losing something that is very important to British society and changing it out of all recognition.
“There are instances of the undermining of health services for political gain, with the blame falling very unfairly on GPs.”
Doctors have become annoyed that they are being criticised for failings in the NHS, with A & E increased attendances “unfairly blamed” on GP out-of-hours contract changes.
In the North East survey, as many as 93% of GPs and practice managers said they felt the health service was being deliberately undermined, with an average response of one doctor or practice manager per medical surgery in Newcastle and North Tyneside. Dr Ken Megson, executive of Newcastle and North Tyneside Local Medical Committee, said: “The NHS has been getting a kicking and moral is very low. I can’t understand why the profession is getting knocked all the time.”
Retired accountant Ken Sykes has used the NHS all his life and is happy with the level of care he has received.
The 72-year-old fears that the health service will be damaged by negative headlines and private companies entering the NHS.
Mr Sykes, a father-of-three, from Whitley Bay, said: “I worry about the future of the NHS and what it means for patients.
“My experience of the health service has been good and it alarms me at what is happening. It really gets to me when there is a campaign to undermine the NHS.
“If people are not happy with the health service now, then they don’t know what bad is, as it will get worse.
“Patients will suffer as private companies will not want to deal with all the nasty, tricky, long-term health complaints.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 14 April 2014
Paramedics will today hold crisis talks as the North East Ambulance Service reveals the full extent of Government cuts.
Ambulance staff will meet at a seminar to ask just who cares for the carers, and what can be done to force NHS bosses to better fund them.
The service will warn that Government-ordered 20% budget cuts mean patients are sometimes waiting more than two hours for a vehicle, while rapid response staff are waiting five hours in a patient’s home with the patient waiting for transport.
In a damning list of support failings set to go to NHS chiefs, the service will warn that: staff morale is at an all-time low; assaults on staff have shot up; paramedics are spending hours in A&E waiting for a bed for patients.
Union leaders say the service is having to call in volunteers from St John’s Ambulance to help out even o n some emergency calls.
Just last week it was reported home patients in the North East are being forced to wait up to six hours for an ambulance despite guidelines saying paramedics should arrive within 30 minutes.
One patient had to wait more than three hours after the emergency was categorised as ‘red2’, which is potentially life-threatening and has a target time of eight minutes.
Figures obtained by The Journal from a Freedom of Information request showed that the North East Ambulance Service failed to meet their target response times on 10 separate occasions in a 12-month period.
Staff at the meeting in Durham today will discuss what to do about growing work pressures. They say that late finishes appear now to be nearly every shift, there are late meal breaks, if any at all, and will warn that crews are regularly facing angry families when arriving on a job knowing that the patient had been waiting for a while.
Paramedics will hear from North East Labour MEP candidate Jude Kirton-Darling, who will warn that a Conservative victory in elections this May could see EU working limits scrapped, making the situation worse.
Joel Byers, Unison’s North East Ambulance Service staff secretary, said: “Government cuts have forced ambulance trusts to cut 20% of their budget year on year but stating patient care should not be affected. This is an impossible task as the majority of our budget is for frontline services.
“The Commissioners are reluctant to pay extra money on a long-term basis to enable North East Ambulance Service to recruit more vitally needed staff. However, workloads have increased year on year with no extra resources except for the use of Private Ambulance Companies. The use of Private Ambulance Companies, First Responders and Police Cars is evidence in itself that there is a lack of resource in frontline staff.
“Every department from frontline, support services and HQ staff are undergoing restructures which are potentially putting staff at risk.
“The extra pressure being applied by the cuts is not just having emotional impact on staff but also a physical impact on staff in terms of assaults and injuries at work.
“For example the number of North East Ambulance Staff that have either suffered an injury at work or been assaulted has risen 590 in 2009 to 916 in 2013.
“With the ongoing pressure being placed on staff we expect the number to increase considerably in 2014.”
Last night he was backed by Ms Kirton-Darling, who said: “Ambulance workers in the North East have told me over the last few months they have experienced growing pressure as their working conditions deteriorate.
“Vital rest periods, set out in the European working time directive are there to ensure ambulance staff are able to operate safely and effectively on our behalf.
“Who in their right mind would want an ambulance worker dealing with a matter of life and death after a 12-hour shift without rest?
“The North East Ambulance Service must ensure decent rest periods and limit working time, otherwise I fear the service could face its own emergency soon with the public and workforce potentially put at risk.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 29 Jan 2014