Statement from Unite national officer Rachael Maskell on the A&E crisis
Today the pressure on 15 hospital trusts has meant that they have had to declare major or significant incident status so that they can cope with this crisis.
I told the then secretary of state Andrew Lansley that a crisis in our NHS would result from his Health and Social Care bill. This coalition government promised no top down reorganisation of the NHS. Within weeks the coalition broke that promise. The coalition has totally failed the NHS.
The crisis in A&E departments is a microcosm of what is happening in our National Health Service. The coalition government has acted like vandals with our NHS.
They cut NHS Direct which was run by health professionals and replaced it with the call centre 111. This act of vandalism has meant people don’t have confidence in the call centre and are turning instead to A&E.
Privatisation of GP services leading to poor out of hours cover has exacerbated the crisis, but we didn’t need a crystal ball to see it coming. Serco in Cornwall attempted to run the service with only one GP on call to cover the county.
It is no wonder that people dial 999 - a number they trust, or go to A&E themselves. This intense demand placed on doctors, nurses and NHS staff generally is intolerable.
It has become a cycle of dysfunction. Cuts in social care support networks have meant older people can’t go home and beds can’t be freed up. Ambulances queue up outside the hospital. The whole system becomes jammed. At times there have been 20 ambulances queuing outside some hospitals. Here in York this situation meant that a patient was taken to hospital by fire engine.
It’s a depressing litany of mismanagement, with funding cuts to ambulance services along with the private sector stripping out the high volume, low risk work to make easy profits leaving intensive care and A&E to face intense demand. And finally cuts to mental health service is further contributing to an already health service under pressure.
David Cameron can try and air brush this crisis away but he won’t succeed. Andy Burnham the shadow secretary of State for Health wants the integration of health and social care. This is the way forward to bring about a NHS that works for all of us.
I am determined to continue the fight to protect our National Health Service.
Unite national health officer