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08.03.17

MPs admit emergency departments are not sufficiently funded

Only a third of MPs believe that emergency departments have the resources they require to keep their patients safe, a poll conducted by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) has revealed.

The poll surveyed 92 MPs of all parties and regions in the UK and found that a strong majority (60%) supported a transformation fund to help with the retention and recruitment of A&E staff, with 85% of surveyed Labour MPs voting to support such an initiative.

The poll also went against government claims that the NHS was getting more than the minimum £8bn by 2020 that it had asked for, as only half of conservative MPs polled said that they thought emergency departments were adequately resourced.

President of the RCEM, Dr Taj Hassan, said: “This is surely now the time for the government to act. The struggling NHS is currently the number one issue for people in this country and this poll shows a large majority of MPs – across all parties – believe urgent action is needed to address the lack of resources that is threatening patient safety.

“At present staff are struggling with just where to put patients – bed occupancy levels are far higher than the safe limit of 85%. This is unacceptable and is resulting in misery for our patients and added stress for our staff; the need for more beds is clear.”

Dr Hassan also stressed the importance of getting staffing levels right and boosting the NHS workforce, saying: “We estimate that the NHS in England is short of approximately 2500 emergency medicine consultants. The increase in attendances in the last five years is equivalent to the workload of 10 extra medium-sized departments in England alone.

“Only by providing more staff and improving our retention rate will we approach being able to attain levels that will provide stable, sustainable working patterns for the staff, and provide the best quality service for our patients.”

Dr Hassan added that it was essential to give the NHS more money to employ more staff and avoid staff burning out in what he described as “one of the most intense healthcare working environments in the NHS”.

“To do this, a correction in funding is imperative for our emergency departments, as well as social care, to provide more staff and more beds,” he said. “This poll shows, and it is heartening to know, that such a correction would be supported by a majority of MPs.”

The poll also raised concern as one in 10 MPs who responded said that they didn’t know whether A&E departments were resourced well enough to ensure patient safety, with almost 20% of Conservative MPs answering that they were not sure.

Dr Hassan responded to this section of the poll, saying: “At a time when some local departments are fighting for their future in the face of sustainability and transformation plans, it is particularly worrying that one in 10 MPs seemingly don’t know if emergency departments are resourced well enough to ensure patient safety.”

The RCEM president also called on MPs to “get to grips with the sustainability and transformation plans and to speak to local clinicians and senior managers” to ensure safety and improve health outcomes in emergency departments.

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