Monday, 2 February 2015

Super A&E con exposed

NHS chief promised new £90m unit in Northumbria won't lead to other hospitals being downgraded... but three nearby facilities will now stop taking 'blue light' cases.

  • Super A&E department opened at Cramlington Hospital, Northumbia
  • Sir Bruce Keogh promised that local A&Es would not be downgraded
  • But three nearby hospitals say their units are to be dramatically reduced
  • Doctor: Calling centres A&E is stretching definition 'to breaking point'

A new £90 million emergency-only hospital hailed as ‘a glimpse of the future’ by the most senior doctor in the NHS will lead to three other A&E units being effectively downgraded, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
After NHS England medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh visited the site of the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital last February, he praised it as an example for others to follow.
Local NHS bosses say it ‘aligns’ with Sir Bruce’s controversial plan to develop a two-tier emergency network across England – a move critics claim will jeopardise A&Es, meaning longer journeys for patients.

Local NHS bosses have accused Sir Bruce of trying to create a 'two tier' emergency response system which critics say will mean longer journeys for patients
When unveiling his national plan in November 2013, Sir Bruce said it was ‘complete nonsense’ to suggest some A&Es would be downgraded as a result of the drive to develop larger specialist units. 
But the opening in June of a new 210-bed facility in Cramlington, ten miles north of Newcastle, will trigger the loss of ‘blue-light’ emergency services at three district general hospitals elsewhere in Northumberland.
Officials insist Hexham, Wansbeck and North Tyneside hospitals will maintain ‘walk-in A&E services’. Yet the three units will only be staffed and equipped to cope with incidents typically dealt with by lower-ranking urgent care centres, according to a leading doctor.
Dr John O’Donohue, who fought to keep a Casualty department at London’s Lewisham Hospital said: ‘I think it’s misleading to say they will still be A&Es. It’s stretching the common interpretation of A&E to breaking point.’
The consultant physician claimed Northumberland was a harbinger of what would happen under the Keogh plan. 
'There’s a danger the centralisation argument is being used as a juggernaut to halve the number of district general hospital A&Es in England,’ he claimed.
For more than two years, The Mail on Sunday has been campaigning against A&E closures, which can leave patients having to travel further. Local campaigners say NHS bosses should come clean and admit the A&Es are being downgraded.
Gail Ward, 57, an angina sufferer from Haltwhistle, Northumberland, who has been treated more than a dozen times for serious problems at Hexham Hospital, said last night: ‘Once these changes go through, it won’t have a proper A&E.’

While hospitals such as Wrexham, which are close to Cramlington, will still technically have A&E departments, they will be staffed and equipped like lesser ranking urgent treatment centres
Dr John O’Donohue said calling the units at hospitals such as North Tyneside A&Es was 'stretching the common interpretation of A&E to breaking point'
The three ‘walk-in A&Es’ will treat ‘minor head, ear or eye problems, broken noses and nose bleeds, sprains and strains, cuts and bites, minor children’s injuries and ailments, minor breaks and abscesses and wounds’, said a spokeswoman for Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
They will no longer take ‘blue-light’ ambulances – meaning patients with heart and lung problems, strokes, other serious afflictions suffered mainly by the elderly, or those with life-threatening injuries will be taken straight to Cramlington. Neither will the district generals carry out emergency surgery.
As a result, Wansbeck and North Tyneside A&Es – which each see more than 60,000 patients a year – will lose half their patients. 
Hexham, which lost trauma and emergency surgery in 2005, will see around 4,000 of its 17,000 A&E patients go.
Northumbria medical director David Evans said senior A&E doctors and specialist nurses from the three hospitals would be ‘pooled’ to work at the new site.
But speaking to The Mail on Sunday, Mr Evans sidestepped questions about whether the changes amounted to downgrading of the three existing A&Es. 
He said: ‘We are relocating medical cover into one central location. We are still providing emergency care centres at our existing hospitals, which will be staffed by nurses and doctors 24 hours a day.’
He said he was awaiting guidance from NHS England about what units offering ‘walk-in A&E services’ should be called.
The Trust has committed to having an A&E consultant at the units between 9am and 5pm on weekdays. There will always be a doctor plus nurses on site at nights and weekends, said the spokeswoman. 
But Miss Ward, who has helped lead an online petition signed by 1,700 people to safeguard Hexham’s emergency services, said: ‘We are concerned about patient safety.’ 
Some elderly people who are without a car would be 50 miles from Cramlington, she said.
An NHS England spokesman said: ‘While NHS England sets out the ambitions for the future of Urgent and Emergency care, it is for local GP-led commissioning groups to decide what is best for their own areas.’
Sir Bruce Keogh said trusts needed to be clear about what each emergency unit could do, adding: ‘Not all A&E units are currently equal – they don’t all offer the same level or quality of service.
‘Unless we are transparent it is impossible to have the constructive local debates we need.’

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