The phrase ‘multi-agency approach’ has become the epitome of modern jargon – it’s what staff of councils and other public bodies like to say to make themselves feel clever and important when all it means is ‘working together’.
But while every journalist – and frankly every right-thinking human being – worth their salt should deride and see through any attempt to cloak unpalatable facts with fancy language, the sentiment when applied to QA is useful.
We’ve reported many times before on the problem of ambulances having to queue outside the casualty department of the Cosham hospital. It’s a crucial subject because it shows that A&E can’t cope with demand, and as well as leading to problems in the department it means ambulances can’t get back out on the road.
But today’s news is worrying – because figures show that in three months ambulances had to queue 1,289 times in Portsmouth, but only six times in Southampton.
So something is clearly amiss on this side of things. It cannot be argued that what we see outside QA is just the local version of a national phenomenon.
And this is where the ‘working together’ bit comes in.
The current A&E crisis – and make no bones about it, it is a crisis – has its roots in many different areas.
Doctors’ surgeries are oversubscribed and not open in the evening – so people head to A&E.
The 111 phone service plays safe in many cases – so sends people to A&E.
And life in 2015 leads people to expect 24-hour service in all areas – so they head to A&E, even if they only have toothache.
Tackling this is not simple. It depends on improving the processes of the casualty department itself, but also looking at why people are turning up. It needs a preventative attitude to make sure that, for example, elderly people are cared for so they do not fall in the first place and need hospital.
Today we look at what every organisation involved has pledged to do to ease the crisis. Rest assured, we will be checking up – in real terms – on progress, because it is too important to let slip – or to be hidden under jargon.