ANDY Burnham has called for the Government to hold an emergency summit to find ways to ease the pressure on struggling A&E departments.
The shadow health secretary published a letter yesterday accusing minister Jeremy Hunt of failing to anticipate the impact of cuts to social care budgets.
Mr Burnham, MP for Leigh, said reports of fire engines and police cars being used as ambulances in some areas of the country raised “major patient and public safety concerns.”
He wrote: “Given this, and also given the rapidly deteriorating position, I believe you should call an urgent summit, including representatives from local government, the police, fire and ambulance services, as well as emergency care and other NHS professionals, to assess the situation and put in place a co-ordinated plan to ensure patient safety and support the performance of A&E departments across England, and minimise any avoidable further major incidents being declared.”
Mr Burnham added elderly people were “trapped in hospital” due to social care cuts and difficulties getting GP appointments and staff shortages had contributed to the pressure on emergency departments.
Responding to hospital staff union claims the service was “on the brink of disaster”, the Prime Minister admitted the NHS is under “pressure” but dismissed it was close to breaking-point and accused Unison of “scaremongering”.
Latest NHS England figures showed just 92.6 per cent of patients were seen within four hours – notably below the 95 per cent target and a marked fall on the worst performance previously recorded since the Coalition came to power of 94.1 per cent at the start of 2013.
When broken down, the quarterly records show the country’s major A&E departments fared even worse, with fewer than nine in 10 patients – 88.9 per cent – being seen within the target.
Wigan Infirmary bosses are continuing to advise residents to only visit the A&E in the event of serious accidents or life-threatening emergencies.
A hospital spokesman said: “Wigan’s A&E department has been experiencing severe pressure like the majority of other hospitals nationwide.
“Our staff continue to work tremendously hard to deliver the best possible care they can under very demanding circumstances.
“While we have taken a number of steps to see all patients quickly, we acknowledge that some have had to wait considerably longer to be seen due to the very high demand.
“We apologise to anyone who has been affected by the current situation.
“We thank members of the public for their patience if they have had to wait a longer time to be seen in A&E and we also really appreciate the public support to our request to only come to A&E if absolutely necessary.”