A&E attendance rises 10 times faster under coalition

Labour urge David Cameron to take responsibility for mounting pressure on emergency departments

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Labour will today call on the health secretary Jeremy Hunt to publish his analysis into the sharp rise in the number of patients turning to A&E.

House of Commons Library data shows that an extra 600,000 people a year are visiting A&E compared to four years ago, and A&E attendance increased by 60,000 over the four years to 2010. This means the number of patients visiting A&E has risen ten times faster under this government.

In a Commons debate today, Labour will show how decisions taken by David Cameron have resulted in ‘record pressure’ on hospitals in England.

During a Commons Urgent Question on A&E services two weeks ago, Hunt told MPs that he blamed an ageing population and changing consumer expectations for the change, explanations which Labour say are overly simplistic.

The shadow health secretary Andy Burnham will present figures to the Commons later on today. showing that:

– An extra 290,000 patients turn to A&E when they can’t get a GP appointment

– One in four NHS walk-in centres has closed

– At least an extra 98,000 patients over 90 arrive at A&E by blue light ambulance each year, as 300,000 people have social care support taken away

– NHS 111 is on course to recommend an A&E visit to 50 per cent more patients this year than last.

Inevitably, the volume of attendance is affecting the level of care hospitals can offer to patients. In the last month, 179, 416 patients have waited over four hours to be seen in A&E; that’s more than double last year’s figure.

The shadow secretary will call on the government to stop the closure of walk-in centres, and to improve access to GPs and social care this winter, to ensure that people feel they are supported by alternatives to casualty departments.

He will also ask ministers not to renew NHS 111 contracts. 111 is the helpline service which replaced experienced nurses with call centre staff in 2010, and which has been blamed for mounting pressure on A&E departments.

Burnham is expected to say that the time has come for ministers to take responsibility for the crisis and stop blaming patients. Labour accuse Cameron of complacency and putting patients at risk.

Labour are urging the prime minister to adopt their five-point plan as a means of taking pressure off A&E. The plan includes: making it easier for families to see their GPs, stopping the closure of walk-in centres, reinstating trained nurses on the 111 service, asking councils to identify vulnerable elderly people and finding support services for them, and reversing cuts in training to recruit more nurses on understaffed wards.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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