This could be a really tough winter for our A&E in Merseyside. We have already seen many of the warning signs through an unprecedented summer A&E crisis which does not bode well for this coming winter. I visited Fazakerley Hospital A&E a while ago to see at firsthand how the staff were coping and it is clear that they are under even greater pressure with what is predicted to be a very challenging winter period.
It's also clear that responsibility for this situation lies with David Cameron.
Before the General Election he promised to protect the NHS. But as we all know instead his government has cut 6,642 nurses and left the NHS reeling from a vast, top-down reorganisation that nobody wanted and nobody voted for. Now with the added pressures through winter A&E could be at breaking point. It just goes to show that you can’t trust David Cameron and the Tories with the NHS and remember they are still being propped up by the Lib Dems.
It's clear that 2013 has been the worst year in A&E for at least a decade, with one million people waiting more than four hours to be seen and the first summer A&E crisis in living memory. The NHS stands in an even worse position than last year, with fewer nurses, fewer beds, a shortage of senior A&E doctors and social care support further reduced.
And the pressure on A&E has become even more intolerable since alternatives to casualty were taken away. The dismantling of NHS Direct, a trusted and established service, ranks as one of this government’s worst acts of vandalism. The privatised 111 service has replaced nurses with call handlers and computers who too often send people to A&E unnecessarily.
There are also the deeper causes of the A&E crisis. The government's devastating cuts to budgets for social care mean fewer older people are getting the help they need to stay healthy and independent in their own homes, something I spoke about in the debate on the Care Bill in parliament on December 16.
All these pressures have taken a toll on our A&E. That’s why I went along to our A&E at Fazakerley Hospital to speak to the frontline staff and see what their concerns were.
I saw patients on trolleys waiting to be admitted at A&E and I saw the ambulance crews still looking after their patients, unable to go to their next call.
When I spoke to the staff they told me of their concerns. And elsewhere in the hospital I met patients and staff making the best of the limited resources and heard how difficult it can be to discharge people to go home due to the cuts in social services. Staff are doing their best but it was clear to me that the cuts made by the government has created a crisis which could spill over at any time this winter.
David Cameron’s fingerprints are all over this winter A&E crisis. But his response so far is: “Crisis, what crisis?”
The NHS urgently needs him to snap out of this complacency.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone in Sefton Central a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And this year, please join me and spare a thought for our emergency services who will be on duty throughout the Christmas period doing their best in very difficult circumstances.