This could be a really tough winter for our A&E in Rotherham. We have already seen many of the warning signs through an unprecedented summer A&E crisis, which does not bode well for this coming winter.
It’s clear that responsibility for this situation lies with the Prime Minister. Despite promising to protect the NHS, his Government has cut 6,642 nurses and left the NHS reeling from a vast, top-down reorganisation that nobody wanted and nobody voted for. Now with the added pressures through winter, A&E could be at breaking point.
There is little doubt that 2013 has been the worst year in A&E for at least a decade, with one million people waiting more than four hours to be seen, and the first summer A&E crisis in living memory. The NHS stands in an even worse position than last year, with fewer nurses, fewer beds, a shortage of senior A&E doctors and social care support further reduced. The pressure on A&E has become even more intolerable since alternatives to casualty were taken away. The dismantling of NHS Direct, a trusted and established service, ranks as one of this Government’s worst acts of vandalism. The privatised 111 service has replaced nurses with call handlers and computers who too often send people to A&E unnecessarily.
There are also the deeper causes of the A&E crisis; the Government's devastating cuts to budgets for social care mean fewer older people are getting the help they need to stay healthy and independent in their own homes. All these pressures have taken a toll on our A&E.
Despite the Prime Minister’s fingerprints being all over this winter A&E crisis, his response so far is: “Crisis, what crisis?” The NHS urgently needs him to snap out of this complacency.