This is a tad off main topic for me, but an article on the BBC News website this morning has seriously infuriated me – Long A&E waits ‘are on the rise’ – suggesting that more people than ever are having to wait longer than four hours to get treatment in their local emergency department.
Now I’m not suggesting for one minute that A&E staff are doing anything less than their absolute best to help deal with the influx of people coming through their doors – what I am saying, not suggesting, is that A&E services, maybe more so than many other hospital roles, have been stripped back so far that you’d need more than a surgeon to put the flesh back on their bones !!
Front line hospital services, just like the police, are stretched to breaking point. A&E Deaprtments; for many, the first port of call at their local hospital, are in some cases well beyond breaking. Sadly, people don’t go into A&E when they are 100% compos-mentis, they have no need, and it’s not a place of social gathering either …. although actually, we are finding that ‘certain’ families seem to treat the weekly trip to Casualty as most would a day out to the zoo – the whole tribe has to come along … and make as much noise and nuisance as possible !!
But if they did .. most ‘ordinary, hard working, tax paying’ folk would be shocked to find, even on a weekend night, quite often only one doctor and a small handful of nurses, trying to triage, assess, order and treat a couple of dozen people at the same time. Many of them will be working 12 hours shifts (or more) trying to do their very best, each time, every time. But you can easily see where mistakes can happen – they don’t very often thankfully – and that’s only due to the sheer dedication and professionalism of the staff on duty – absolutely naff all to do with the vastly greater number of supervisors, managers and bean counters, who will all have been tucked up in bed with a cup of Horlicks by 10pm the night before !
The Government, bless them, were clearly aware last year of how hospitals were struggling to cope with less staff and more patients coming through their doors. In a well publicised case, Stafford General Hospital (in Staffordshire obviously) was forced to close the doors of its A&E department overnight because it hadn’t got the staff to run the department. That’s the main hospital in a county town, not able to serve its population.
Patients had to be taken to hospitals in Stoke on Trent or Wolverhampton – that’s real people, many of whom were in the back of ambulances, having to be transported sometimes an extra 20 miles, away from home and family, at a very worrying time, just to get the help they needed. And yes, I acknowledge that there were a number of prior factors affecting Stafford Hospital but they do not excuse having to close an A&E department.
Guidelines issued by the Department of Health did, until last year, state that Health Authorities were only allowed to permit 2% of people to wait over four hours for treatment.
So how did the Department for Health deal with the impending crisis in Casualty ??? fund more doctors ??? more nurses ??? extra beds and equipment ??? …. NO – they simply increased the percentage of people allowed to wait longer from 2% to 5% – a TWO HUNDRED AND FIIFTY PERCENT INCREASE !!!!
And if that’s not Whitehall bluffing the books, will somebody please tell me what is ???!!!
As one of my rants on Twitter earlier said – “When was the last time a Minister sat in A&E for four hours waiting treatment” ?
Most front line police officers know only too well how busy, understaffed and chaotic A&E departments can be – we probably spend more time in them than any other group of people excluding the staff who work there themselves – it’s not unusual for us to attend the same unit several times a night with different people, either transporting from custody, prior to taking into a custody block, or found in a comatose state on the street, with by far the major contributory factor in the patients newly found medical need being the over gross consumption of alcohol.
In fact, I spent more than 70% of my last Saturday night shift in my local A&E, with one buffoon or another. Speaking with the Sister, between her frantic, almost non-stop phone calls, trying to scrape nurses, porters, beds and god knows what else out of nowhere, we did between us establish that of the more than 50 patients that had passed through the department overnight, only 5 were there for non-alcohol induced problems (and two of those were young children) !! – we found a far more important role whilst there than babysitting drunks – fetching tea & coffee for the nursing staff …
We’ve also found it quite useful and appreciated, for anyone else that may wish to take up the idea, that going into A&E armed with a box of Quality Street for the staff does wonders for morale
It’s clear to me that although efforts to introduce minimum alcohol pricing may have some effect, there should be a minimum £200 charge for a hospital having to sort out your own drunken stupidity – and yes, where necessary, take it directly out of their benefits – might stop them spending so much on Frosty Jacks and White Lightning for a couple of weeks !
While I’m on the subject of A&E Departments …. why is it that sooooo many people, normally drunk as well – there’s a pattern forming here – seem to think it’s their god-given right to abuse or attack hospital staff ?? Doctors, nurses, and the support staff are there to help these morons; not to take the crap because they can’t look after their own lives. I can wager you that in the Chaos Constabulary, and I’ll bet, every other force in the country, there are few calls that will guarantee the doughnuts get dropped and coffee strewn aside, than a call for help from the local hospital saying someone or other is kicking off at A&E staff or paramedics on a job. I can 100% say such calls are not going to end positively for the idiot involved !
For the above reason, can I just remind my law enforcement colleagues, that as well as the more obvious ‘Drunk & Disorderly’ and ‘Section 4, 4a & 5’ offences, there is a not very well publicised offence (well not in our area anyway) of ‘Causing a nuisance or disturbance on NHS premises’ – Section 119, Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 – see the image below and click on it to open a larger, A4 size version you can print and keep somewhere handy :
The above piece of legislation applies to England and Wales – if someone can guide me to the equivalent piece of Scottish legislation, I’ll post that here as well.