Misery in A&E: Tens of thousands left waiting in corridors or even ambulances for hours before they get a bed
Tens of thousands of patients are being kept on trolleys or in ambulances because there are not enough hospital beds. Some are ‘warehoused’ in corridors or side rooms for up to 12 hours before being taken to a ward. Others are parked outside in ambulances for up to 30 minutes until they are allowed to be admitted.
Experts warn that such patients are liable to deteriorate without access to extra oxygen, monitoring equipment, call bells or even meal rounds.
They also point out that it is highly undignified for patients – many of whom are elderly – to have to wait for this length of time, sometimes in full public view.
Department of Health figures show that in the last 12 months a total of 125,887 patients have waited for between four and 12 hours to be transferred to a ward after being seen by a doctor in A&E.
The annual figures are up by a fifth on the same period last year and MPs and nurses warn that the NHS is struggling to cope. At the same time the number of patients attending A&E has surged – partly owing to patients losing faith in GP out-of-hours services.
The figures also show that 900 patients a day are being made to wait in the back of ambulances queued outside A&E units.
In all, 32,546 have waited more than 30 minutes in ambulances since the beginning of November, when the Department of Health started recording the data.
There is also concern that NHS managers are deliberately keeping patients waiting in ambulances to meet their targets.
Hospitals have been told to ensure that 95 per cent of patients spend no more than four hours in A&E before being discharged or sent to another ward – but the clock starts only once a patient is formally admitted, so if the emergency unit is particularly busy bosses will be inclined to leave patients waiting in an ambulance.
In the last decade, the number of patients attending A&E has soared by 50 per cent to more than 21million a year. Many do not know how to contact their GP out of hours and have nowhere else to turn.
The rise has also been blamed on the binge-drinking culture – more than a million of the annual A&E admissions are alcohol-related.
Despite the official targets, the figures also show that more than 100,000 patients spend more than four hours in A&E every week. There have been 546,676 cases since November 1, up 16 per cent on last year.
Labour health spokesman Andy Burnham, who obtained the figures, said: ‘The evidence is mounting of an NHS struggling to cope with the toxic combination of cuts and re-organisation. Wherever I go, I hear stories of A&Es being overwhelmed, ambulances queueing outside and hospitals running beyond safe occupancy levels. ‘It sounds like the service is on a knife-edge and living from one day to the next.’
He warned that problems were likely to worsen over the winter as increasing numbers of patients are admitted with flu, pneumonia and the highly contagious norovirus bug. ‘I am worried that some hospitals will simply not get safely through the winter, and patients will suffer,’ he added.
Tom Sandford, Director of the Royal College of Nursing England, said: ‘We know that despite a growing demand for A&E services, both hospital beds and staffing levels are being cut.
‘Forcing patients to wait up to 12 hours before being admitted or discharged is not only unacceptable from a patient point of view, but can cause great distress to families, carers and nursing staff.’
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the RCN, said: ‘Being on a trolley for an extended time can lead to patients deteriorating and is bad in every sense.
‘There is a lack of call buttons and water – and many people are, understandably, too embarrassed to tell a nurse that they need to go to the loo. Ministers can deny it and dress it up with statistics, but we know that this is a reality. We’re warehousing people on trolleys in inappropriate places.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘The NHS is well prepared for winter and is coping well so far at a time of increasing demand.’
Bad care is inevitable in the NHS
That’s not to say it’s excusable, just that the appalling neglect of 38 patients at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch is the logical result of the NHS’s untenable management structure.
Imagine if everything at Tesco’s was free but rationed, and subject to delivery delays of several months. Then throw in the fact that there are no other free alternatives. You would have a nightmare on your hands – huge queues, attracted by the free goods, then further stretched by the long delays.
Imagine how the staff would then behave – harrassed by the limitless demand of customers, but also in a tyrannical position of monopoly power, because there is no alternative provider. They can be as rude as they like, knowing that the customer has nowhere else to go; knowing that, without their services – food in the Tesco’s case, life-saving healthcare in the case of NHS – you will die.
On top of all this, imagine that the government ran Tesco’s, with absolutely no previous skill or experience in running supermarkets; and no accountability when it all falls to pieces, apart from the possibility of losing their jobs every five years at an election. And there you have the perfect recipe for chaos, accompanied by a complete, and inevitable, lack of care
Cuts to religion lessons ‘will fuel bigoted attitudes’, British MP warns
Children risk being increasingly swayed by the attitudes of “bigoted” parents because of the steady decline of religious education in schools, ministers have been told.
Pupils will fail to filter out fundamentalist Islamic views – or offensive opinions voiced by Christian families – following a drop in the number of decent RE lessons, it was claimed.
Stephen Lloyd, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Religious Education, said high-quality tuition in a range of faiths, beliefs and cultures was essential for young children to make sense of the world.
But he warned that access to lessons was becoming increasingly marginalised because of a combination of Government reforms to the curriculum and cuts in teacher training places.
According to figures, a third of secondary schools already flout the law on compulsory RE by refusing to allow pupils to study the subject in the final two years of school.
It also emerged that rising numbers of schools were cutting specialist RE teachers and relying on untrained staff with a poor grasp of the subject to deliver lessons.
Last month, the Parliamentary group launched an investigation into the multiple problems facing religious education.
New data presented to the group showed that the number of universities running training courses for would-be RE teachers has fallen by a sixth in just two years – from 40 to 33. The vast majority of remaining courses are under threat of closure because of a lack of fully-funded places, it was claimed.
Mr Lloyd, the Liberal Democrat MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon, said the decline in the subject led to fresh concerns that extreme attitudes towards certain faiths and beliefs would spread.
“I think – certainly outside the faith schools – RE is a subject that’s beginning to diminish,” he said.
“I think that it is even more important today that our children learn about the range of different faiths, cultures and beliefs to give them the chance to gain a level of knowledge across the piste so they don’t just have to listen to what’s on the internet or what may be the fundamentally bigoted attitudes of their parents or peers towards other religions. It is becoming more and more important because of the globalised world.”
Critics have claimed that RE is in decline because it is has been excluded from the Government’s English Baccalaureate – a school leaving certificate that rewards pupils who gain good grades in English, maths, science, languages and history or geography.
Mr Lloyd said that decent RE teaching gave pupils access to more objective facts surrounding different faiths to act as a counterbalance to attitudes picked up in the home.
He added: “I don’t think most children – if they are told that fundamentalist Islamic views are right or fundamentalist Christian views are right – are going to go on the internet and look at all the rational moderate details of all the different world religions as balance on their own.
“I think there’s far more chance for them to go online and find all the information that validates what they already believe.”
Data submitted by the Association of University Lecturers in Religion and Education to the all-party inquiry suggests that dedicated teacher training courses in the subject are in decline.
Universities such as Warwick, Hull, East Anglia and Oxford Brookes have closed training courses in the last two years, it said. Only 33 courses remain but 27 of these train fewer than 10 teachers this year – potentially making them unviable.
The committee is expected to publish its report on RE early in 2013.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “Religious education remains a statutory part of the wider school curriculum for every single student up to 18.
“The English Baccalaureate will not prevent any school from offering religious education GCSEs. In fact, RE teaching hours at Key Stage 4 [14-to-16] have risen since the introduction of the EBacc. We have been clear that pupils should take the exams that are right for them and teachers and parents should help pupils make the right learning choice.”
Britain’s ‘crazy’ health and safety rulings attacked
“Jobsworth” officials are wrongly applying health and safety rules to prevent people undertaking everyday activities, a minister says today.
Mark Hoban, the minister for employment, said that the “crazy” interpretation of health and safety rules must stop. “It’s time for authorities, businesses and other organisations to stop hiding behind the catch-all, cop-out term “health and safety” and come clean on the real reasons for these crazy decisions,” he said.
“The jobsworths can’t be allowed to get away with it.”
Writing for telegraph.co.uk, the minister recalled a recent incident when he went to buy a Christmas tree and was told that health and safety rules meant that the sellers could not trim the trunk for him.
He also described an employer in his constituency who refused to let work placement students make tea and coffee in case they injured themselves. “That’s just nonsense – and it drives me mad,” Mr Hoban said.
Mr Hoban’s remarks come after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that the rules are often being wrongly applied or used an excuse.
The HSE looked at 100 cases, and found that in 38, health and safety rules were simply being used as an excuse for unpopular decisions. In more than a quarter of cases, the rules had simply been wrongly applied.
To highlight mistaken uses of the rules, the HSE has published a list of the worst misuses. Among the worst examples:
A bus driver refused to allow a customer to board while carrying a hot drink in case it spilled.
A Bar refused to let a customer carry tray of drinks because they had not been ‘health and safety trained’
A charity shop said that it cannot sell knitting needles because they could be dangerous.
A school banned yo-yos because children might injure themselves with the toys.
Judith Hackitt of the HSE said that such “stupid” decisions are undermining rules that, properly enforced, can prevent death and injury.
She said: “It’s really important that we are all ready to challenge stupid decisions made in the name of health and safety, and that we as the regulator give the public the confidence to do so.
“Not only do the jobsworths who make these ridiculous edicts waste time and money, and interfere needlessly with harmless activities, they also undermine our efforts to reduce the number of people made ill, injured or killed by their work.”
Forget the sympathy and counselling. Just lock up my burglar!
Rachel Johnson encounters the useless British police
The last time I wrote about a crime in the family – after my younger son was relieved of his BlackBerry in London’s Holland Park in broad daylight – a certain local politician complained of me putting it about that the capital’s streets were in the grip of a ‘middle-class mugging epidemic’ ahead of an important election.
Well, even as Plebgate turns to Plodgate, I have another crime to report. On the heartbreak scale, nothing like Robert Peston’s recent loss of jewellery belonging to his late wife, Sian Busby. But unpleasant enough.
I got home after a festive gathering and my older son rushed to greet me at the front door, his face stricken. He’d been sitting watching TV downstairs and heard a noise. He thought nothing of it, but when he went into the kitchen he discovered we’d been burgled.
Cut the sympathy: The Johnson family have received a house call and phone call from victim support offering counselling as well as two letters from the police since the MacBook was stolen
Cut the sympathy: The Johnson family have received a house call and phone call from victim support offering counselling as well as two letters from the police since the MacBook was stolen
I admit, officer, that the back door to the house was unlocked at the time. Unlocked by me. We’d been burgled, and my son’s new MacBook stolen.
Now the MacBook was replaceable, of course, unlike treasured family jewels, let alone a beloved wife. But still: it was a laptop a teenager had worked for weeks in a restaurant kitchen over his summer to buy.
‘Did you insure it, like I said?’ I asked. ‘No,’ he said shortly, working away on my laptop. ‘But I’ve got tracking.’ ‘Oh good,’ I said, not knowing what he meant.
The police turned up, then left, saying they’d be in touch, which they most certainly were. Since the ‘incident’, we’ve had a house call from Victim Support, a call asking us whether we needed counselling, a letter expressing sympathy, and a letter asking if we wanted more counselling.
Something astonishing happened three days later. While nothing seemed to be occurring on the crime-solving front, the tracking was working like something out of Spooks. Prey Project software sent us a three-pronged report, generated from the nicked laptop. And very interesting it was, too.
The first part was a photo taken by the stolen MacBook of the first person who’d gone online since the theft. It showed the large face of a bald gentleman.
he second showed the home screen of the missing laptop, where our gent was logged into Facebook. The third was a map, which zoomed in on the current location of the missing item, to a radius of 110 yards.
Now, you would have thought that when we excitedly told our detective constable that we had a visual, the Facebook profile, and almost exact location of the current ‘owner’ of the stolen item on the mean streets of Ealing, as well as the laptop’s serial number and IP address, he would have hopped in a panda car, and gone all Life On Mars. But he didn’t.
Explaining why would take ages: essentially, all the information generated and given was still insufficient to execute a search warrant. So this is where we are. Nowhere.
Now, I presume that the local constabulary feel it’s ‘job done’ because they turned up, fingerprinted, gave us a crime number, and offered counselling. But it’s not. The one important box remains unticked: they have not solved the crime or, in my view, really tried to. There has been no – in the jargon – ‘justice outcome’.
After we’d stopped even getting letters offering tea and sympathy, I called them. ‘How about I go to Ealing and do a Mummy Stakeout followed by a citizen’s arrest myself?’ I suggested. There was a pause. ‘I advise against attending an unknown location due to obvious risk,’ the DC replied.
Then he said, as if I’d be pleased: ‘The image of the man in possession of the computer has been fed through the Met’s facial-recognition software without result and has been circulated to Ealing’s safer neighbourhood team.’
I can’t help feeling we’re on our own here, and this is also why a desperate Peston, I presume, has taken to Twitter, and published photographs of the missing rings, and appealed for their return.
It’s as if Plod is now devoting more resources to aftercare than investigation when it comes to theft.
As I’ve learnt, while apps and spy software may reveal where your electronic babies are, they won’t help you get them back. Even if the cops had kicked down doors in Ealing, they say my son would only get into a protracted civil dispute over who had legal claim on the item, which had doubtless been fenced on within hours for £50 or so on the Uxbridge Road.
So if you have splashed out on anything expensive and electronic, do remember: if you don’t buy insurance (and check your household insurance, too – it turned out we didn’t have any, which was happily my husband’s fault), Father Christmas will be giving the present to some light-fingered footpad, who will flog it on within hours, making it virtually irrecoverable.
Not that insurance, of course, would help when it comes to Sian Busby’s rings, or the necklace saying ‘Mum’, given to her by their teenage son, Max.
No tracking can ever find them; no amount of compensation can ever replace them. When the police appear to care as little for our possessions as those who have stolen them do, then we are all robbed – of our faith in the force.
British judge criticises Government for focus on ‘minority issue’ of gay marriage
A High Court judge has criticised the Government for focusing on the “minority issue” of gay marriage during a time in which society was facing a “crisis of family breakdown”.
Sir Paul Coleridge questioned the decision to concentrate on an issue that affects “0.1%” of the population at a time when break-ups were leaving millions of children caught up in the famiy justice system.
The comments by the judge – who started a charity to try to stem the “destructive scourge” of divorce – come after plans for gay marriage were criticised by the leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales as undemocratic and totalitarian.
Sir Paul said that his charity, the Marriage Foundation, did not take a stance on same-sex marriage.
But he told a newspaper: “So much energy and time has been put into this debate for 0.1 per cent of the population, when we have a crisis of family breakdown.
“It’s gratifying that marriage in any context is centre stage… but it [gay marriage] is a minority issue. We need a much more focused position by the Government on the importance of marriage.”
Sir Paul added: “The breakdown of marriage and its impact on society affects 99.9% of the population. That is where the investment of time and money should be, where we really do need resources.”
The overall divorce rate remained “miles too high”, he said, resulting in 3.8 million children in the family justice system. “This is an obscene level of family breakdown,” said the judge.
It comes after Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, used his sermon at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve to accuse ministers of acting to legalise same-sex marriage in defiance of public opinion.
The Coalition has said it will change the law to allow homosexual couples to marry. It says churches that do not wish to hold same sex marriages will not have to, and the Church of England will be excluded from the legislation.
The plans have been criticised by dozens of Conservative MPs, and campaigners opposed to the new law say there is no public support for the change. Roman Catholic leaders have been among the fiercest critics if the plan.