Investigation launched into whether closure of two A&Es triggered long waits at nearby hospitals
NHS bosses have launched an official investigation into whether the closure of two A&Es triggered long waits at nearby hospitals – just days after The Mail on Sunday highlighted the problem.
Dr Mark Spencer, the GP in charge of the huge hospital reorganisation in North-West London, said he was ordering the inquiry because he was ‘not happy’ with A&E performance at Northwick Park and Ealing hospitals, following the closure of two other London units in September.
The surprise decision comes after repeated denials by NHS managers that closing A&Es around the country has a ‘domino effect’ on other emergency departments.
NHS bosses have launched an official investigation into whether the closure of two A&Es triggered long waits at nearby hospitals – just days after The Mail on Sunday highlighted the problem (file picture)
The probe will look at whether the controversial closures of A&Es at Central Middlesex and Hammersmith hospitals caused lengthy delays at nearby casualties – and led to a spike in death rates.
This paper has discovered numerous instances of A&E closures having a knock-on impact elsewhere – leading to longer waits for emergency care, wards bursting at the seams, and more operations being cancelled.
Last Sunday, we told how patients at Northwick Park (pictured) and Ealing have faced the longest A&E waits in England this autumn, following the double closure ten weeks ago
And in September chief executive David McVittie said he did not expect the closures to have a ‘large impact’ on Northwick Park.
But now Dr Spencer has said an official investigation will look at the issue. He said local doctors were ‘not happy’ with the recent performance of the A&Es, adding: ‘A lot of this is unexplained. We need to look at that.’
He continued to believe that the increase in patients waiting more than four hours was not due to the closures, but admitted they could have played a part. He said: ‘If we are wrong, we will find out how we got it wrong and not do it again.’
Waiting so long for treatment was ‘not good care’, he said. ‘If your relative was stuck on a trolley for four hours you would be cheesed off.’
The investigation will look at death rates at the hospitals, although he thought it would be ‘hard to say’ if the closures had affected mortality rates. Chris Mote, a Harrow councillor, believed the care of elderly patients had been affected. He said: ‘A month ago I had to go to Northwick Park A&E one evening. I was there for six hours. I met a friend who’d brought his mother in, in her 90s. I went in for a scan at 10am the next day and she was still in casualty – 12 hours later. It was frightening.’
The graphic shows the official NHS A&E figures for Northwick Park and Ealing before and after closure of Central Middlesex and Hammersmith, with more patients waiting longer
Gareth Thomas, Labour MP for Harrow West, said: ‘Well done to The Mail on Sunday. I am glad to see some action being taken. The investigation needs to be independent and be willing to talk not just to medical experts, but people like councillors and MPs who get feedback from patients who use A&E.’
For two years, this paper has highlighted problems hospitals have faced following nearby A&E closures – including at Wexham Park in Slough; Stoke Mandeville in Aylesbury, and North Middlesex Hospital in Edmonton, North London. People have also been waiting longer for ambulances in Newark, Nottinghamshire, which lost its A&E in April 2011.
Those in charge of the ‘reconfiguration exercises’, as they call them, argue centralising emergency services in larger hospitals drives up standards. They enable the remaining A&Es to be properly staffed at nights and weekends, they say as Britain has a chronic shortage of A&E doctors. But campaigners claim closures are made to save money, not improve care.
NOW CASUALTY SWAMPED BY DENTAL PATIENTS
Tens of thousands of patients are resorting to A&E for dental treatment because they find dentists too expensive, official figures suggest.
Since 2010, the number citing cost as the reason they do not go to an NHS dentist has risen by 50 per cent, to just under a million. At the same time the number receiving treatment at A&Es in England for dental problems has leapt fourfold, to 14,500.
The true number going to A&E for dental help is likely to be far higher, because almost half of those who attend casualty receive no actual treatment – only advice.
Tens of thousands of patients are resorting to A&E for dental treatment because they find dentists too expensive, official figures suggest (file picture)
Dr Cliff Mann, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, said as many as one in 20 visiting A&Es at the weekends or bank holidays was now seeking dental help. But he cautioned: ‘We don’t have any dental equipment or dental skills, so beyond giving them painkillers or antibiotics, there’s nothing we can do.’
NHS dental charges have increased 12 per cent since 2010 – roughly in line with inflation. The cost of a check-up has risen to £18.50, a filling to £50.50 and work such as a crown to £219.
The British Dental Health Foundation suggested a key factor behind the rise in A&E attendances – revealed in figures unearthed by Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham – was the dismantling of NHS Direct, which used to employ dental nurses to give advice.
The Department of Health said most people could afford a dentist. A spokesman said dental care was free for all children and a third of adults.