After Socialist Worker’s revelations last week about the scale of NHS cuts (Market driven cuts hit the NHS, SW, 20 Aug), a further survey has shown that patient safety is at risk because of the rising number of Accident and Emergency (A&E) units which are closing.
Since June, three departments have been hit, but experts are predicting as many as another 30 may go in coming years.
A&E departments which have closed or suffered major downgrading in the last year include Southmead hospital in Bristol, Ormskirk hospital in Lancashire, Kent and Canterbury hospital and Princess Royal hospital in West Sussex.
Last year Crawley hospital’s A&E unit closed, leaving the nearby East Surrey A&E department to take on the workload. Within weeks, ambulance officials were reporting queues of up to two hours to get patients admitted.
Simon Williams, director of policy at the Patients Association, warned A&E had seen its workload increase since a new GP contract came into force last year allowing doctors to opt out of providing out of hours care.
Figures show that in the most recent 12 months there was a 10 percent rise in A&E admissions.
He said, “If there are too many closures we could find there is no out of hours cover.”
In an extraordinary example of how far national planning has disappeared, a department of health spokesperson said A&E should be decided locally and that “the government would not get involved.”