As summer fades and winter draws closer, the debate over A&E care seems to be gaining even more momentum. The issue has been in the headlines for months but time is running out to avert the looming winter crisis we all fear. The recent arguments about why and who is to blame for our A&E Departments being over-burdened have been well publicised on all sides but there are no quick fixes or easy answers.
It therefore seems incredible that the Daily Mail reports today (10 September 2013) that only five hospital trusts in England employ a senior A&E consultant at night and there is only one A&E consultant at weekends in nine out of 10 trusts. Unfortunately, these sobering statistics are consistent with our increasing experience of shortcomings in A&E care.
Penningtons Solicitors LLP’s clinical negligence team has been instructed in an increasing number of A & E care cases and is receiving more enquiries than ever from patients concerned about delays in examining, investigating and diagnosing them in A&E and Urgent Care Centres (UCCs). Many complain that the standard of care they received has had a profound effect on their outcome and, in some cases, patients have suffered serious injury or the loss of loved ones.
Andrew Clayton, associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons, says: “ These latest statistics paint yet another picture of A&E care that cannot be sustained and which needs radical overhaul. We welcomed the NHS Confederation report focusing attention on better care for the elderly away from hospitals to meet their complex and overlapping health needs but this alone cannot address the chronic staffing shortage highlighted by today's statistics.
"It cannot be acceptable that so many hospitals have no senior consultants in A&E at night and at weekends and, potentially, that the standard of care for a patient depends on the time at which they attend. The recent attention on improving community care for the elderly comes after weeks of debate over expanding GP-led out of hours care for everyone and the need to educate patients on the appropriate first point of contact with the NHS. These are welcome moves to reduce pressure on A&E but, with so few senior consultants in A&E departments up and down the country, there will be inevitable and avoidable failings in care whether they be delay or errors."