As winter gets into full swing, the approach of Christmas isn’t the only inevitable thing – increased pressures on our health services also rear their ugly heads when the temperature takes a dive.
Therefore South Central Ambulance Service’s launch of a nine-point action plan to try and ease the pressure on A&E departments is as timely as it is, unfortunately, essential.
It is commendable that Scas is taking a proactive course of action to try and improve a notoriously problematic area, particularly at our own Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham.
But the latest NHS figures show that in September, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs QA, saw, treated or discharged just under 80 per cent of patients within four hours. This is 15 per cent short of the government benchmark.
Other figures show that 37 patients had to be diverted away from QA to other sites over a two-week period because of increasing demand.
Of course part of this comes down to the need to educate the public on how and when they should be using the casualty department.
However, there is a much bigger picture here. The NHS itself is struggling to cope in numerous areas – access to A&E is just one of the more highly visible points. The bottlenecks created at A&E are symptomatic of a much wider malaise in an underfunded service.
Scas’s action plan includes many laudable points such as improving access to mental health care, employing more specialist paramedics, and improving transfer times.
The one thing the health service really needs though is the funding to push these measures through and make them achievable, and more crucially, sustainable.
And at the ground level we can all play our part in asking if it’s A&E that we really need.