The NHS crisis: GWH A&E consultant joins call to Mrs May for action
Dr Steve Haig lives in Bath and commutes to Great Western Hospital because he likes working at the Swindon hospital so much. He is an Emergency Department Consultant at GWH and is among the senior A&E clinicians from 68 hospitals in England who signed the letter to the Prime Minister about the A&E crisis in England's hospitals.
They say they were 'compelled' to write the letter in support of colleagues and staff "...and for the very serious concerns we have for the safety of our patients."
"The current level of safety," they write, "is at times intolerable, despite the best efforts of staff." They call the situation 'appalling' and say some patients are dying prematurely as they wait for treatment.
The latest figures from GWH are not good. In December they again missed the 95 per cent A&E target for patients to be seen, treated or admitted within four hours. GWH hit 81.5 per cent which was below the average for England of 85.1 per cent.
The A&E consultants letter tells the Prime Minister: "The facts remain however that the NHS is severely and chronically underfunded. We have insufficient hospital and community beds and staff of all disciplines especially at the front door, to cope with our ageing population's health needs."
We have reported several times on the staff shortages and recruitment problems - some of them due to government policies. And we have also reported how the number of beds at GWH has not kept up with Swindon's hugely increased - and still increasing - population.
In their letter, the consultants call for a 'significant increase in social care funding' and the fast implementation of the workforce strategy the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has put forward. And in addition they call for:
"A review of the number of hospital beds that are available for acute care. A number of independent organisations have confirmed that the UK has an inadequate acute bed base to meet the needs of its population."
Meanwhile health officials are noting that the winter pressures recorded in the latest figures - and in news coverage of queuing ambulances and full corridors - have only just begun. And are now joined by an increasing number of flu cases.
In mid-December a ward at GWH had to be closed for several days due to an outbreak of Norovirus - the winter vomiting bug. It is thought the bug was brought into the ward by someone visiting a patient. GWH are asking visitors showing any symptoms of the condition not to visit wards - and everyone ton use the alcohol hand gel.
It should be noted that GWH's record on transfers from ambulances is not suffering - yet. In November 95.9 per cent of arrivals were transferred within 30 minutes. In 79 cases the wait was between 30 minutes and an hour and in five cases the breach of the 30-minute handover was greater than one hour.
FOOTNOTE: After a better month in October, in November GWH just missed the 85 per cent target for cancer treatment to begin within 62 days of an urgent GP referral: their 84.6 per cent figure was, however, above the average across all England's hospitals.