Sunday, January 18, 2015

UK Health Radio – Medical News Update on the Hour - More Pressure on A&E

UK Health Radio – Medical News Update on the Hour

The BBC are reporting that A&E waiting times in Wales and Northern Ireland have got worse in the past month - dropping further to well below performance in England.
Hospitals were meant to see 95% of patients in four hours during December however just 76.7% in Northern Ireland were, while in Wales it was 81%, a drop since November for both nations.
The figures have been published a week after data for England showed waits are now at their longest that they have been for a decade.  In England 90.2% of patients were seen in four hours during December in what is proving to be one of the most difficult winters for years
England also publishes weekly data that showed there was a slight improvement during the second week of January from the previous week.
Data for Scotland lags some way behind the rest of the UK - the latest comprehensive data is from September - although interim figures show hospitals are struggling there too.
In all cases the figures include smaller units, such as walk-in centres and minor injury clinics. Once they are stripped out, performance is even worse. Meanwhile, the government in England has announced plans to pilot a change in ambulance response times to make better use of the service at a time of growing pressure.
Ambulance service chiefs say too many vehicles are dispatched to cases in the second most urgent category, known as Red 2, which then turn out to be less urgent.
Ambulance services are expected to respond to Red 1 and Red 2 calls within eight minutes. Instead of 60 seconds, the call handlers will now have 180 seconds to make a decision before the eight minutes begins for Red 2 in London and the south west from next month.
The changes to ambulance response times - or at least the time call handlers get to assess the calls - will understandably raise suspicions.
Like most of the rest of the system, ambulance crews have been struggling to meet their targets. So in the middle of the most difficult winter for a long time the idea of changing the goalposts may feel under-hand.
But it is something ambulance staff has been calling for a while. Only about a tenth of 999 calls are genuinely life threatening, but four times as many are treated as such.
Part of the problem is that people staffing the phone lines only have 60 seconds to make a judgement. Naturally, they lean towards being safe and dispatch more crews urgently than is necessary.
Royal College of Nursing general secretary Peter Carter said: "At the moment the government is treating the symptoms, not the cause.
"If more is not done to improve community services and invest in staffing across the NHS, this desperate fire-fighting will continue year after year. This crisis will not be cheap to solve, but ignoring it will cost patients dearly."
Amanda Thomas
UK Health Radio – Medical News Update on the Hour
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