Unite, the country’s largest union, has outlined a template to restore accident and emergency services in England as the remedy to the current “ideological and chaotic way” that services are disintegrating.
Unite said, in its submission to the Commons health select committee into emergency services and emergency care, that at the heart of the issue was how people are accessing the NHS.
Unite, which has 100,000 members in the NHS, including paramedic and ambulance staff, and doctors, said: “As a result of failings in primary care, the new 111 service and GP services, particularly out-of-hours, for many people the only way to adequately access the NHS is via A&E.
“The solution to this is to recreate an effective primary care service including out-of-hours services for patients, based on GPs integrated into the multidisciplinary team, alongside other health professionals with local knowledge not only of the patients in their area, but also of how the wider NHS functions.”
Ambulance staff were under great strain due to the increased demands on A&E services – a 2012 survey by pay specialists IDS revealed that 46 per cent were frequently working over their contracted hours and 64 per cent reported a ‘substantial’ increase in their workloads.
Unite was also concerned over the way that the NHS pays hospitals for A&E patients - if a hospital admits more patients than five years ago, it only gets paid 30 per cent of the cost of treating those patients.
Unite said that the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust was one of the worst examples of the effects of the cuts on the ambulance service nationally - £46 million over five years.
Unite said that a new operational model in Yorkshire threatens to downgrade all ambulance staff, removing professionally trained technicians from ambulances altogether and replacing them with untrained drivers, with only basic first aid training.
Because Unite raised concerns about patient safety earlier this year, the ambulance trust management derecognised Unite which led to a successful one-day strike on 2 April. Unite’s reps in Yorkshire meet on Thursday (23 May) to discuss the next steps in their campaign.
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “We are cynical about joined up working under the artificial market structures created by the Health and Social Care Act. Integration has been seriously damaged by the chaos caused by the reorganisations - and that was even before the commissioning process began.”
Unite submission’s comes against a background of reported “toxic overcrowding” and “institutional exhaustion” in A&E services in the West Midlands.
The full Unite response: Unite A&E submission to MPs
For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.