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Prioritise repair of emergency medicine, doctors urge next government

RCEM sets out election manifesto in response to worst ever A&E performance figures published this week

Caroline White

Friday, 15 November 2019

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) has urged the next government to prioritise the “repair” of emergency medicine in its election manifesto in response to the worst ever A&E performance figures for England for the month of October.

Performance against the four-hour standard was at 83.6% at all types of emergency department, and just 74.5% at major A&Es, the data showed.

The manifesto sets out what needs to be done to repair emergency medicine across the board.

RCEM president, Dr Katherine Henderson said that yesterday’s figures “should be a source of shame for politicians of all stripes. Patients have been let down repeatedly by a parliament that has consistently failed to grasp the scale of the problem.”

She added: “The worst part of this is that winter is only just beginning. This will almost certainly get worse.” Action had to be taken to “resolve the chronic problems facing emergency care. Our manifesto shows how,” she said.

Among its recommendations, the manifesto calls for: at least an extra 4,000 beds to help maintain flow in emergency departments and get bed occupancy back to safe levels.

A social care white paper that addresses the £2.3bn shortfall in council social care budgets must be published, it says, while the expansion of the GP workforce and their hours of availability are needed to extend primary care services.

The manifesto also calls for sufficient capital funding to update buildings and equipment and transform the emergency care system, as well as a clear strategy to address emergency medicine staff shortages, in particular adequate numbers of nurses.

Many of the emergency departments in use are not adequately designed for the delivery of 21st century emergency medicine. Many need to be rebuilt, says the manifesto.

Dr Henderson said: “At its simplest we need more beds, we need more staff, we need more social care. Politicians must make this happen. No more excuses. No more distractions. Our next administration must put the health of our country above all else.”

She added that the wider health service needed to work together to reduce pressure on emergency care: “Corridor care is unacceptable; we need collaboration and we are working with other Royal Colleges to find a way to do this,” she said.

“While it is entirely legitimate to review NHS targets, the review of standards has led to uncertainty and left trusts wondering where their focus should be,” she continued.

It was unacceptable to have patients waiting a long time in the emergency department for a bed, she insisted, but warned that “in the short-term trusts will have to stretch every sinew to find more beds and staff, to ‘rescue A&E performance’.

“Given the record level of vacancies and the chaos the current pension taxation arrangements have caused, this is a near impossible task,” she pointed out.

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