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A & E Departments at breaking point?  

Date: 3 February 2017

Statistics from NHS England for the period 1st December 2016 to 1st January 2017 showed that on 143 occasions A&E Departments had to close their doors to patients in this period. This is a huge increase on the figures for the same period the previous year.

Sir Bruce Keogh was previously asked by the Chief Executive of NHS England to review waiting time measures in place in England to ensure that they were operationally well designed and made sense for all patients.

In his report, ‘Urgent and Emergency Care Review 2013’ Sir Keogh confirmed the vision for emergency services within the NHS as follows:

i. For those people with urgent but non-life threatening care needs the NHS should provide a highly responsive, effective and personalised service that delivers care as close to home as possible, minimising disruption and inconvenience for patients and their families.

ii. For those people with more serious or life threatening emergency care needs, the NHS should ensure they are treated in centres with the very best expertise and facilities in order to maximise the chances of survival and a good recovery.

He confirmed that in order to achieve this, changes were required to the urgent and emergency care system by:

i. Providing better support for people to self-care.

ii. Helping people with urgent care needs to get the right advice in the right place, first time.

iii. Providing highly responsive urgent care services outside of hospital so people no longer choose to queue in A&E.

iv. Ensuring that those people with more serious or life threatening emergency care needs receive treatment in centres with the right facilities and expertise in order to maximise chances of survival and a good recovery.

v. Connecting all urgent and emergency care services together so the overall system becomes more than just the sum of its parts.

In his letter of 4th June 2015 to the Chief Executive of NHS England Sir Bruce Keogh continued to express concerns in relation to patient waiting times and the data in relation to our A&E Departments was published monthly to try to address this.

Despite these recommendations, the emergency services within England are at breaking point as shown by the recent reported figures. Only in exceptional circumstances should a ‘divert’ take place where an A&E Department closes its doors to new patients according to NHS England Guidance. The fact that this has occurred 143 times in a one monthly period is worrying. This is in addition to the pressure in relation to GP waiting times.

The impact of this is significant. Patients are being denied access to emergency health services at a time when it is most required and there is now huge pressure to address this. Future figures and action will be monitored closely.


If you or a loved one have been affected by an inability to access NHS services when most required which has resulted in injury and wish to have a free no obligation chat about whether you may be able to bring a claim for clinical negligence, please do not hesitate to contact Sarah Barclay or Trudy Buck on 01253 356051 and we will be more than happy to assist.



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