Charity cuts lead to A&E queues at University Hospital of North Staffordshire
PEOPLE are crowding out North Staffordshire’s overstretched A&E department after recession-hit charities have been forced to turn them away.
They have started to use the University Hospital of North Staffordshire unit as a last resort even though it is already missing Government targets to treat patients quickly enough.
The worrying trend has been revealed by the area’s GPs who have been given new powers under NHS reforms to commission and monitor hospital care.
Now the doctors have been urged to use their budgets to restore cuts in the voluntary sector so the charities can re-open services for sick and needy people.
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Family doctors leading North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) estimate that Government austerity measures have slashed the income of the voluntary organisations by a 30 percent locally.
That has forced them to close services and as a result, people who rely on them are now seeking hospital care.
The GPs say the cuts are also hitting the more deprived areas hardest, resulting in far more people needing to be admitted as emergencies.
Audley GP Dr Richard Page, CCG emergency care director, said: “Austerity measures have led to service closures and a 30 percent reduction in voluntary sector budgets locally.
“In such circumstances, A&E is often the route of least resistance – and patients have told us they get a guarantee they will be seen if they attend the unit.
“There is also evidence that people living in areas of socio-economic deprivation have higher rates of emergency admissions after adjusting out other risk factors. In fact GP practices serving the most deprived populations have hospital admission rates between 60 and 90 percent higher than those serving the least deprived populations.”
The added pressure on A&E comes as it is seeing record numbers of patients.
The knock-on effects have seen the hospital fined for keeping patients waiting, beds having to be re-opened to cope, the trust reporting a £16 million overspend and executives warning of a major shake-up of services.
Advice agencies say cuts in social care have seen people turn to the voluntary which has also seen budgets reduced.
Simon Harris, chief executive of Stoke-on-Trent Citizens’ Advice Bureau, said: “People turn to places they know will always be open and, as we know find A&E as a last resort.
“The GP commissioners deserve credit for identifying the problem – now they could use their new budgets to help solve it.
“Being treated at A&E helps people’s immediate needs but it is other agencies including the voluntary bodies which resolve their underlying problems.”