Shock 250% rise in patients waiting more than 4 hours in A&E: Six-month total soars by 146,000 – as Labour says crisis is worst in 20 years
Hundreds of thousands more patients are being forced to wait longer than four hours for emergency care as A&E departments across the country struggle due to closures and staff shortages.
Official NHS data reveals a growing crisis in England’s A&E wards with one in every three patients now waiting four hours or more for emergency treatment in the worst affected areas.
The figures, released by the Department of Health on Friday, show that during the week up to April 7, 33,225 patients were forced to wait longer than four hours compared with 13,081 in the same week last year, a rise of 250 per cent.
An additional 146,000 patients waited more than four hours to be seen in casualty in the six months between October and April compared with the same six-month period during the previous year.
The shocking picture of emergency care – described as the worst in nearly 20 years – is based on information submitted by all hospital trusts across England.
The pressures have been blamed on the reorganisation of NHS services in recent weeks, a programme of A&E closures and a massive shortage of frontline staff.
Since 2011 when the Government scrapped a target introduced by Labour that 98 per cent of A&E patients must be seen within four hours, claiming it had ‘no clinical justification’, waiting times have gradually risen from what had been an all-time low.
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said: ‘We have repeatedly warned Jeremy Hunt about the intense pressures on A&E and urged him to get a grip. His failure to face up to this problem cannot continue.
‘England’s A&Es are struggling in a way not seen since the bad old days of the mid-Nineties. ‘There are two principal causes of this increasing chaos. First, hospitals are continuing to make severe cuts to frontline staffing levels, with many operating below recommended staffing levels. ‘Second, deep cuts to council care budgets mean patients can’t be discharged from hospital beds.
‘With no free beds on the wards, A&E staff can’t admit patients, and with A&E full, paramedics can’t hand over patients. So we see long queues of ambulances outside hospitals as the pressure backs up right through the system.
‘These problems are well known but they have been neglected as for months the NHS has been distracted by the biggest-ever top-down re-organisation. Standards of care are deteriorating across the country as the NHS is dragged down by David Cameron’s toxic mix of cuts and reorganisation.’
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘With fewer nurses and rising demand, emergency departments are now at risk of being overwhelmed. The chaotic closure of NHS Direct also risks sending more patients to A&E unnecessarily. This situation could become very dangerous over the coming months.’
A&E units are now supposed to treat 95 per cent of patients within four hours, but the NHS figures show this target has been missed most weeks since December.
In some of country’s biggest emergency units the national target has not been met since September last year, while in some hospitals the figure has dipped to just 60 per cent.
A Mail on Sunday campaign to save A&E services has already revealed that the pressure on casualty wards is set to worsen with the proposed closure or downgrade of 34 more A&E departments over the coming months.
The latest revelations also coincide with the introduction of the Government’s much-criticised 111 non-emergency phone number, which has already been blamed for increasing the number of emergency call-outs and trips to A&E.
The latest performance report on the 111 service reveals patients in 30 areas across the country waited for more than an hour for a call-back during the Easter period – and one waited for 11 hours.
The new figures show that in one of the worst affected areas, Coventry and Warwickshire, A&E services are ‘close to collapse’. One in every three patients arriving at A&E at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust waited longer than four hours, according to the figures. The Trust said doctors have already cancelled hundreds of operations and appointments to free up beds.
Elsewhere, at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, two in five people waited more than four hours.
At Weston General, Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, North West London and Leicester, a third of patients spent four hours or more waiting for treatment, while at Kettering, Wrexham, Bath, Bristol, Worcestershire and Milton Keynes, long waits affected one quarter of all arrivals.
A spokesman for NHS England said: ‘Our A&E departments are seeing increasing numbers of patients, meaning they are having to run harder just to stand still, and the NHS deserves a great deal of credit because broadly speaking it has kept waiting times under control.
‘We are taking action to help improve performance in future. There will be fines where there are delays of 30 minutes or more in ambulance handovers and we have set a minimum standard so that no patient should experience long trolley waits.’
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt spent a morning working at Watford General Hospital’s A&E as part of an initiative to give health Ministers and officials frontline experience last week. Mr Hunt took on various roles including cleaning and portering on Thursday.
Mother, 30, suffered massive stroke after being ‘sent home from hospital because a specialist was unavailable’
A young mother suffered a massive stroke after she was wrongly sent home from hospital because there were no specialists on duty over the weekend to assess a brain scan.
Ruth Stanton was aged just 30 when she was admitted to hospital after suffering two mini-strokes over 48 hours.
Doctors carried out two brain scans, but failed to give her a diagnosis because it was a Friday evening and the specialist neurologist was not on site.
Instead they sent the mother-of-two home without treatment and that night she suffered a massive stroke in bed.
Her husband, Kerry, 47, discovered his wife, who worked in a building society, slumped on the floor of their bedroom, unable to speak or move.
Mrs Stanton, whose two children Caelan and Safiya were aged just five and one when the stroke occurred, suffered permanent brain damage.
She was unable to speak and is still learning to read and write again. She also has short-term memory problems, suffers from depression and is unlikely to ever work again.
Last month (March) the couple were awarded a six-figure sum in damages following a seven year fight for justice.
But Mr Stanton, an executive chef, said that no amount of money could compensate for how his family life had been irrevocably damaged by the blunder.
Mr Stanton said: ‘Ruth changed overnight from a happy, vibrant, independent woman to a shadow of her former self and our family life will never be the same again.
‘The stroke destroyed Ruth, she is a former grade A student but now everything is a struggle. She has had to learn to speak again and still has difficulty talking. She can’t sit and read the children stories, or help them with their homework and our seven-year-old daughter is teaching her how to read and write.
‘Despite this, she can understand everything that’s going on, which is very frustrating for her. She suffers from depression and has talked numerous times of not wanting to be here anymore.’
Mrs Stanton, a keen horse rider who visited the gym several times a week, suffered the first mini-stroke while visiting her mother, Rosemary Francis, 61,on November 15 2006.
While waiting for a blood test at her GP surgery the following day she suffered another small stroke and the decision was made to go straight to Worcester Hospital.
She was admitted and underwent a CT scan, then an MRI scan the following day. However, medics failed to make a diagnosis and instead said they wanted a specialist neurologist, who was not at the hospital, to take a look at the scans.
Because it was a Friday evening the specialist wasn’t available and, although the scans showed signs of abnormality, medics made the decision to discharge Mrs Stanton, who was told to wait for an out patient’s appointment, instead. She returned home and went to bed but suffered the stroke in the middle of the night.
A medical expert provided evidence to the couple’s solicitor that prescribing a simple dose of aspirin for Mrs Stanton, now 36, would have prevented it occurring.
Mr Stanton, of Bognor Regis, West Sussex, added: ‘If the hospital had given Ruth aspirin and monitored her effectively the stroke would have been avoided.
‘The sad truth is if Ruth had suffered her mini-strokes on a Monday she would probably had better care because there would have been more doctors and more specialists on duty.
‘Unfortunately, Ruth was sent home on a Friday night because the doctors knew nothing could be done over the weekend. ‘We put our trust in those doctors and unfortunately they let Ruth down.
‘Instructing solicitors was never about getting compensation, it was about getting some answers for Ruth. As it turns out we now know that someone didn’t do enough for her, which doesn’t make it any better or give her any closure.’
Tests later revealed Mrs Stanton was suffering from Takayasu’s arteritis, a rare disease caused by the inflammation of the walls of the largest arteries in the body, which makes sufferers more susceptible to strokes. She has been treated with aspirin on an on-going basis and has not suffered another stroke since.
Dr Solomon Almond, a consultant physician, provided evidence on Mrs Stanton’s care for her legal case. He said: ‘There was a failure to recognise the signs of stroke and to appreciate the initial scan findings. Mrs Stanton was initially discharged without any treatment and it is likely aspirin would have been beneficial.’
Sue Taylor, a medical negligence lawyer at JMW Solicitors, who represented Mrs Stanton, said: ‘This is an absolutely tragic case of a young woman with a loving family who has been struck down in her prime.
‘The quality of care provided to sufferers can mean the difference between a full recovery and permanent disability, so it is absolutely vital that the NHS is making sure its healthcare staff are able to provide fast diagnosis and treatment.’
A spokesman for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said the hospital was ‘pleased’ a settlement had been reached with Mrs Stanton, but added: ‘The Trust has made no admission of liability.’
‘I wouldn’t let my daughter have heart surgery at Leeds’: Leading doctor says care at the unit is verging on unacceptable
A senior National Health Service executive has declared he would not want his daughter treated at the crisis-hit child heart unit in Leeds.
Professor Sir Roger Boyle spoke out only days after the centre reopened after it was shut at short notice because of data he leaked on its comparative death rates.
Sir Roger, who now oversees NHS death rate data but was national director for heart disease until 2011, said that care at Leeds was ‘on the edge of acceptability’.
The father of a ten-year-old daughter, Amy, and three grown-up sons, he said: ‘I tell you that I have a young daughter, I would go somewhere else. I would go to Newcastle.’
His comments will alarm parents and enrage supporters of the unit at Leeds General Infirmary. They want him to be sacked, accusing him of ‘conducting a cynical vendetta’.
Paediatric heart surgery at Leeds was suspended at the end of last month after data leaked by Sir Roger appeared to show death rates running at twice the national average.
Surgeons at other units also raised concerns and parents told of children who were lucky to be alive.
But others claimed the closure was politically motivated as it came just 24 hours after the High Court quashed plans to close the centre as part of measures to streamline children’s heart services.
The hospital insisted the data was incomplete and that full figures would confirm the unit to be safe.
Surgery resumed earlier this week and NHS England said it was satisfied that immediate safety concerns had been dealt with.
However, Sir Roger’s comments on Radio 4’s The Report programme will reignite the controversy.
He insisted that, despite safety assurances, a comprehensive analysis of the data showed the unit should remain under supervision.
‘We find they’re just on the edge of what we call an alert. ‘In other words, showing that they were right on the edge of acceptability,’ he said.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said that the quality of its service had been independently verified during a rapid review.
A spokesman added: ‘This was publicly reconfirmed at a meeting of councillors in Leeds on Wednesday when the deputy medical director of NHS England reaffirmed that all child heart surgery units in England, including Leeds, are safe to undertake surgery.’
The Save Our Surgery campaign group said Sir Roger’s involvement in deciding which child heart units should close means he is far from impartial.
His comments, added spokesman Sharon Cheng, were ‘extremely unhelpful and undermine the progress made over the last few days to begin to rebuild heart patients’ families’ trust and confidence’.
Greg Mulholland, Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West, called for Sir Roger to be sacked. He said the remarks had caused huge and unnecessary distress to families as well as slurring the reputation of those working at the unit.
NHS medical director, Sir Bruce Keogh, took the decision to suspend treatment at the unit but said he now ‘disagreed’ with Sir Roger. ‘Having reviewed the unit, having reviewed the data, the performance in Leeds is in keeping with good national standards and I would be very happy to have my child operated upon in Leeds,’ said Sir Bruce.
Labour at war: Tony Blair launches strident attack on Ed Miliband’s retreat to being a 1980s-style party of protest
Ed Miliband was embroiled in a damaging row with Tony Blair yesterday over his kneejerk resistance to austerity and welfare cuts.
The former Prime Minister warned Mr Miliband he risked reducing Labour to a party of protest, out of touch with mainstream opinion.
Mr Blair insisted the Labour leader’s belief that the centre ground of British politics has shifted to the left in the wake of the financial crisis was a fantasy.
In his most significant intervention in domestic politics since leaving No 10, he said Labour must get out of ‘the comfort zone’, and that people wanted a party that offered answers to problems rather than merely being a mouthpiece for anger.
He also suggested Mr Miliband needed to be more realistic on issues such as the spiralling housing benefit bill, spending cuts and education reforms.
He was backed by former Home Secretary David Blunkett and former Business Minister Pat McFadden.
Mr Miliband, however, suggested he regarded the former Prime Minister, who won three general elections, as yesterday’s man, insisting he was not interested in ‘old solutions’.
Mr Blair’s intervention comes as Mr Miliband faces growing unrest from a section of his party over his refusal to back any of the Government’s attempts to rein in the bloated welfare budget.
He has previously been circumspect about criticising Mr Miliband, but hit out in an article for the Left-leaning New Statesman magazine.
Mr Blair insisted that ‘the financial crisis has not brought a decisive shift to the Left’ and warned that politics was returning to that of the 1980s – with the Tories offering fiscal responsibility and Labour simply opposing austerity measures.
Labour must not become simply a ‘repository for people’s anger’, the former Prime Minister wrote. ‘Parts of the political landscape that had been cast in shadow for some years, at least under New Labour and the first years of coalition government, are illuminated in sharp relief.
‘The Conservative Party is back clothing itself in the mantle of fiscal responsibility, buttressed by moves against “benefit scroungers”, immigrants squeezing out British workers and – of course – Labour profligacy.
Mr Blair said the scenario was more ‘menacing’ for his party than for the Tories. ‘They are now going to inspire loathing on the Left. But they’re used to that,’ he said.
‘They’re back on the old territory of harsh reality, tough decisions, piercing the supposed veil of idealistic fantasy that prevents the Left from governing sensibly…
‘For Labour, the opposite is true. This scenario is more menacing than it seems.’
In an apparent swipe at Mr Miliband’s policy vacuum, Mr Blair warned the public wanted to ‘know where we’re coming from because that is a clue as to where we would go, if elected’.
Mr Miliband insisted: ‘I always take Tony Blair very, very seriously, but… I am leading in my own way. Political parties have to move forwards not backwards, not going back to old solutions.’
However, Mr Blunkett said: ‘He [Mr Blair] is right to remind us that the pendulum did not swing leftwards and there is much to do.’
Mr McFadden said: ‘Advice from a three-times election-winning Prime Minister should always be taken seriously.’
Tory chairman Grant Shapps said: ‘Tony Blair is right to warn that Labour aren’t a credible party of government under Ed Miliband.
‘The only plan Labour have is more of what got us into this mess in the first place – more spending, more borrowing and more debt.’
The nasty side of Labour that proves it’s unfit to govern
Tony Blair’s broadside in the New Statesman magazine against Ed Miliband for being out of touch with mainstream opinion could not be more timely, given the distasteful, ungenerous and unChristian attacks on Lady Thatcher by so many on the Left.
In his article, the former Prime Minister identified one key reason for the Labour Party’s current failings: its bovine adherence to the out-of-date and dangerous policies that were destroying Britain before Mrs Thatcher became Premier.
Blair understands how her brave and imaginative ideas rescued the country by destroying the power of the unions, encouraging aspiration — and helping to liberate millions of people from state control.
He appreciates that Lady Thatcher understood the values of the British nation — a people inherently conservative and who abhor the undemocratic, anti-aspirational aspects of socialism.
He can see, too, that Miliband is reverting to old Labour ways — and panders to the Left who so hated Lady Thatcher for destroying their power base and keeping their party in opposition for 18 years.
The Labour leader’s incessant whingeing about ‘the cuts’ is intended to please the old Left and the union barons who elected him. But because he does not offer any solutions to the problem of the debt engulfing Britain, he is reducing Labour to being merely a party of protest as opposed to a responsible alternative government.
What’s more, the vulgar rage of the past few days has exposed the deeply ugly side of this old-style socialism that Blair is warning about — a shameful lack of humanity.
I’m not talking about those ignorant teenagers (who weren’t even born when Mrs Thatcher rebuilt this country) who are buying the song Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead. No, it is a rump of Labour MPs and peers who are insulting her memory.
These men and women must never be allowed to forget that they were defeated by Lady Thatcher in three general elections, through the democratic process.
Equally galling for them is that they realise Labour won in 1997 only because the Labour Party chose as its leader a virtual conservative — Mr Blair. He recognised the genius of Mrs Thatcher’s transformation of Britain and accepted her new anti-socialist consensus.
Thus he ditched the socialist nonsense of Clause Four with its commitment to public ownership. He also rejected his party’s support for penal levels of taxation. In this way he made Labour electable again.
But when the Labour government under Gordon Brown returned to its old, discredited policies after 2007, it paid the price — as it did in 1979 — for running Britain into the ground.
Mr Miliband and his shadow ministers still fail to understand the values and aspirations of Britain’s hard-working families. This failing is combined with a meanness of spirit.
You have only to examine the behaviour of John Prescott, who cheered Glenda Jackson for her bilious attack on Lady Thatcher, or Lord Kinnock (a man whose absurdity was exposed by his acceptance of a peerage after a lifetime of demanding that the House of Lords be abolished) who has grandstanded his refusal to attend her funeral.
Of course, there are those on the Left who have behaved decently following the death of a political rival. But their obnoxious colleagues have shown yet again which is the real nasty party.
Christian airport worker vows to take Muslim bullying case to Luxembourg after being granted right to appeal against sacking
A Christian worker who claims she was sacked from her job at Heathrow following a ‘race hate’ campaign by ‘Muslim extremists’ today vowed to take her unfair dismissal case ‘all the way to Luxembourg’ to the European Court of Justice.
Nohad Halawi allegedly weathered cruel rumours that she was ‘anti-Islamist,’ on top of a systematic catalogue of intimidation that included telling the 48-year-old that she would go to Hell if she did not convert to Islam.
Halawi, previously a beauty consultant for luxury cosmetics brand Shiseido, was then booted out of her 13-year-long job in Heathrow Airport’s World Duty Free shop, after going to her seniors with concerns about the verbal tirades she was subjected to.
She also claims ‘extremist’ colleagues brought the Koran to work to try and convert people to Islam and even handed out leaflets promoting terrorism, as well as declaring that it was ‘a shame’ the failed July 21 London bombings did not go off.
Having taken her tribunal case to the courts in 2011, Halawi lost after it was ruled that as a part time and commissioned-based freelance she was not a staff employee.
Today, however, she won the right to appeal.
Speaking outside court, the mum-of-two from Weybridge, Surrey, told how the abuse started after she stuck up for a Christian colleague who was left in tears after Muslim staff made fun of her for wearing a cross necklace.
She said: ‘At first, because I am from Lebanon, they assumed I was Muslim but when they found out I wasn’t they started bullying me.’
Halawi, who came to Britain from Lebanon in 1977, continued: ‘They used to say about 9/11 that it serves the American’s right and that it was a shame the failed London bombings did not go off. When I asked them why they did not go back and live in their own country if they didn’t like the UK, they said ‘we came to the West to try and convert as many people to Islam as we can.’
She also revealed insider knowledge on life within Heathrow: ‘They keep coming to the airport and many of them work in security. It is terrible there. If they see that you are a Muslim they wave you through. One time they thought my husband was Muslim and said ‘don’t worry he is one of us’ and let him through without checking him. And you’re telling me this is safe security.’
Mrs Halawi said she once found extremist leaflets in one of her Muslim colleague’s drawers but the airport turned a blind eye. She said: “Management told him to throw them away. I later found out he had been sacked from other terminals for handing them out and inciting religious hatred, but duty free covered it up as they are scared of labelled Islamophobic.”
She was fired in July 2011 after five Muslim colleagues complained she was anti-Islamic followed a heated conversation in the store.
After her sacking 28 colleagues, some of them Muslims, signed a petition calling for her reinstatement claiming she was dismissed on the basis of “malicious lies”, but it was unsuccessful.
Having lost her first unfair dismissal campaign, Halawi received help from the Christian Legal Centre to further her case and has subsequently won a right to appeal.
She added: ‘I am not and have never been racist or anti religion. I have many Muslim friends. I am doing this because I want to show that people It’s not fair to use the religion card. They’ve ruined my life. They’ve ruined my family’s lives. I can’t get work and am relying on friends and family to get by’
A spokesperson for World Duty Free refused to comment because of the ‘ongoing legal proceedings.’