June 4, 2013 - Bill Esterson's Westminster Diary

Bill Esterson



Urgent action is needed after news that a number of the region’s hospitals have been forced to turn away patients from their accident and emergency departments.

On Tuesday ambulances going to the Royal Liverpool were diverted to other hospitals because it was struggling to cope with demand and in the early hours of Wednesday morning Fazakerley hospital took similar action. 

Let’s be quite clear. This is not because of the staff at A&E or because of ambulance crews. Like staff across our NHS, they work there because they care and because they want to do a good job looking after patients. 

Most staff in the NHS do a fantastic job and the hospitals are doing what they can to cope.

So why is there a crisis at A&E?

When I visited Fazakerley Hospital recently, staff have told me how much pressure they are under. They showed me what happens every day. 

It’s the same at many of our hospitals. Ambulances crews have to wait with their patients on trolleys in the corridor because all the cubicles are full. The reason the cubicles are full is because there are no beds elsewhere for patients to move to. The reason for the lack of beds is that hospitals cannot discharge some patients because there is no one to help especially frail elderly people make the transition from hospital back home on the one hand and there is a lack of places in intermediate care facilities.

Southport and Formby Hospital also tell me that more of the patients at A&E are frail elderly people who have more complex problems so it takes far longer to treat them. This pressure could be reduced if more was done to look after our elderly people so they didn’t end up being rushed to A&E.

Other pressures include the cuts to council social services, the cuts to walk in centres, out of hours and difficulties with the 111 phone service.

All of which sees a massive problem at A&E, where staff are doing their best to cope and the hospitals are in an impossible position.

Constituents have also told me shocking stories of how they have waited for well over an hour in an ambulance before being allowed into the hospital for treatment.

A&E units serving people in this region are struggling in a way not seen since the bad old days of the mid-1990s.

The system clearly has not coped with pressure caused by government cuts which have happened at the same time as a massive re-organisation, which by the way cost billions of pounds which was diverted away from patient care.

It is no wonder that there is a crisis at A&E when money has been spent on re-organisation. And it is clear that the government needs to take urgent action, right now to address the problems at A&E, the lack of services to help with discharging patients and the need to prevent many elderly people ending up in hospital in the first place.

Three years ago, our National Health Service was the best in the world, according to the World Health Organisation.

Patients and staff want it to return to being the best in the world and the government needs to do what is necessary to make sure that happens.