THE TIME has come for frank discussions to address the issues pushing our NHS to the brink of collapse.
That’s the stark message from a leading councillor tasked with scrutinising the health services in Leeds at a time of unprecedented pressure.
Today we publish a letter about the crisis engulfing the NHS in which Coun Peter Gruen sets out 12 recent events giving him cause for concern, including cancelled operations, patients waiting on trolleys in hospital corridors and a shortage of community beds.
The chairman of Leeds Health Scrutiny Board told the YEP: “People are genuinely worried, I think, that the NHS might just fail under the pressure and not be able to cope.
“Who on earth would have thought that we would be back to trolleys queuing in corridors?
“It’s absolutely appalling that people can’t get into A&E, can’t get into a bed and we’re having elective operations cancelled. To me, it’s at breaking point.”
The question of the month seems to be: “Is there a crisis in the NHS or not?”
As chairman of the Leeds Health Scrutiny Board, I wonder if we should let the facts speak for themselves?
Here is a list of recent events:
1) Leeds Teaching Hospitals have had to suspend elective surgery due to the “winter pressures”.
2) Trolleys in hospital corridors are back! There are columns of trolleys with patients waiting, often for hours, to be admitted for treatment, never mind a bed.
3) Ambulance crews cannot pass over patients on arrival at hospital due to these shortages; this in turn means they cannot respond to further urgent calls.
4) As an emergency measure, hospitals are deploying doctors to specifically look after patients in the trolley queue.
5) The Secretary of State seems to want to dilute the four-hour emergency target in A&E, to a huge outcry of protest from all sectors of the community.
6) It is reported that where performance is collapsing in A&E departments, partial closure is the next step.
7) There are insufficient numbers of community beds of acceptable quality available for elderly patients, still needing some care, to be transferred to. This has led to the emergency opening of a ward at Wharfedale hospital. It is not enough capacity.
8) Only 50 per cent of private sector residential homes are judged by the regulator to be ‘good’; so that means half the provision in Leeds is NOT good. At the same time many homes are closing due to financial pressures.
9) Many people cannot get timely appointments at their local GP practice and so chose to instead present at A&E where, although having to wait a lengthy period, at least they will be seen.
10) The mantra that there are lots of new doctors and nurses is not evident in the frontline; as we all know as GPs in our communities retire, closure of the local practise can quickly follow.
11) Bursaries for talented and hard working nurses are withdrawn.
12) The secret NHS England Sustainablility and Transformation Plans are taking billions of pounds away from the NHS and health departments.
So, I let readers judge for themselves whether or not we are in a crisis. I just say this: Wake up and smell the coffee!
Councillor Peter Gruen