Investigation claims A&E discharge delays cost NHS £100m-a-year in England

Darlington and Stockton Times: SINKING SHIP: A&E staff claim they are facing "unachievable" targets SINKING SHIP: A&E staff claim they are facing "unachievable" targets

A FORMER consultant at a leading North-east hospital claims the strain of working on casualty wards is driving so many staff away that A&E has become "a sinking ship".

Documentary film crews spent a week on the accident and emergency department of University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, where staff revealed the pressures of meeting "unachievable" targets to see patients within four hours.

Alex Muirhead, who was an A&E consultant at the hospital but left in December to work as a GP in Hartlepool, said: "A&E is a sinking ship and, unless things change dramatically, it will sink because its not a popular place to work now".

The BBC Panorama programme, to be screened tonight, claimed that delays in discharging patients from hospital while they wait for social care to be arranged are costing the NHS in England about 100m every year.

Professor Keith Willett, NHS England's director for acute care, said that cuts in local authority budgets are making things worse.

Prof Willett said: "There's bound to be a consequence. Social care and local authorities have taken a significant reduction. We need to join the services up and one of the key things we have to do is to bring the doctors, the nurses, the social workers back together.

Its expensive for the NHS and its wrong for patients to keep them in high acuity health care environments when they'd be much better off at home being supported in their own environments.

Prof Willet also condemned the target culture within the NHS as too crude.

Things have moved on, he said. When it came in it was highly effective; now its too blunt".

Alan Foster, chief executive of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, told the programme it was important for staff to remember that behind every target is a patient.

Patients come first, he said. We don't want people to wait four hours in A&E.

"If you or I were going to the A&E department, wed want to be seen quickly so although we have that target, its not the be-all and end-all.

Dr Clifford Mann, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, which represents A&E doctors nationally, said that recruiting and retaining enough emergency staff is a huge problem all over the country and warned that there could come a time when there will be no doctors to treat accident and emergency patients.

He said: For the last three years, we've recruited only 50 per cent of the registrars into emergency medicine. This means there's a lack of about 350-375 registrars around the country that equates to three quarters of a million patient consultations per year that cant happen because those doctors don't exist.

My real fear if we don't do something about recruitment and retention in emergency medicine is that you will turn up in an ambulance to an emergency department and there will be no doctors there to see you.

Panorama calculated the £100m figure using NHS England data from 245 trusts over the past two years.

* x-ref p41 Charity volunteers to help relieve pressure in Darlington Memorial Hospitals A&E

Comments (4)

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10:16am Mon 17 Mar 14

calumannabel says...

My father was in both N Tees and Hartlepool Hospital three years ago after a hip operation went wrong. The staff at Hartlepool were excellent whereas N Tees was a disaster area. Vomit was left uncleaned on his small side ward and the dignity of patients ignored. We battled to get dad back to Hartlepool to die in his home town and get him out of that hell hole. As my wife, a former nurse commented, it is impossible to do the job properly and be as fat as some of these members of staff were. God help us if the two staffs merge - it will be like oil and water.
My father was in both N Tees and Hartlepool Hospital three years ago after a hip operation went wrong. The staff at Hartlepool were excellent whereas N Tees was a disaster area. Vomit was left uncleaned on his small side ward and the dignity of patients ignored. We battled to get dad back to Hartlepool to die in his home town and get him out of that hell hole. As my wife, a former nurse commented, it is impossible to do the job properly and be as fat as some of these members of staff were. God help us if the two staffs merge - it will be like oil and water. calumannabel
  • Score: 3

8:23pm Mon 17 Mar 14

Border Terrier says...

No problem. We will just get more third world medical staff(So called) who can barely speak English!
No problem. We will just get more third world medical staff(So called) who can barely speak English! Border Terrier
  • Score: -4

1:13pm Tue 18 Mar 14

Garygadget says...

Casualty depts have got too busy because we have so called trusts now. Where one a+e dept has to
Cover and treat more than one town.
E.g Darlington /durham/bisyhop is a trust.
Some days there is durhams/ bishop ambulances bringing patients too Darlington A+E.where years ago
Darlingtons A+E received only patients who lived close and from dton.
Now we get patients from 3 towns.
No wonder the dept can't cope.
It's simple maths
Casualty depts have got too busy because we have so called trusts now. Where one a+e dept has to Cover and treat more than one town. E.g Darlington /durham/bisyhop is a trust. Some days there is durhams/ bishop ambulances bringing patients too Darlington A+E.where years ago Darlingtons A+E received only patients who lived close and from dton. Now we get patients from 3 towns. No wonder the dept can't cope. It's simple maths Garygadget
  • Score: 2

8:02am Wed 19 Mar 14

thetruthyoucanthandlethetruth says...

Our NHS is in big big trouble. Of that these is no doubt at all. The blame for this can be placed at more than one door. Meddling government & lazy demotivated staff are the two main reasons.
Our NHS is in big big trouble. Of that these is no doubt at all. The blame for this can be placed at more than one door. Meddling government & lazy demotivated staff are the two main reasons. thetruthyoucanthandlethetruth
  • Score: -1

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