Papering over the cracks?

The Government has announced a funding boost of £500m to help to relieve pressure on the worst hit A&E departments.  Statistics have revealed that one million more people attended A&E in the last year compared with three years ago and this, particularly over the winter, has resulted in a virtual melt down of some services.

The funding is aimed at helping hospitals to prepare for the forthcoming winter and is designed to reduce or eliminate the “pinch points” which can so badly affect A&E services.  This should enable A&E patients to be treated promptly and provide alternate care pathways for those who currently see A&E as their only care option.

Hospitals which have been identified as being most affected have been invited to submit their proposals for funding.  These proposals may involve Accident and Emergency departments directly but could also cover areas such as taking steps to minimise hospital admissions from care homes by providing local specialists, increasing hours at walk in centres or pharmacies or increased social care provision or the provision of more services away from hospitals.

In announcing the proposals the Prime Minister, David Cameron, said:

“The additional funding will go to hospitals where the pressure will be greatest, with a focus on practical measures that relieve pinch points in local services. By acting now, we can ensure doctors, nurses and NHS staff have the support they need and patients are not left facing excessive waits for treatment.

Whether this new measure will be successful in reducing winter waiting times will be a matter for the future but it has to be said that it has not received universal acclaim.  The Alzheimer’s Society commented that “while today’s proposals could bring short term benefits, they will do little more than paper over the cracks,” and their comments were echoed by the BMA and others.

However, this is but one stage in an overall plan to provide continuity of care within the community, thereby reducing the pressure on hospitals.  This includes a £3.8 billion fund to “focus on joining up services, so that health and care services work more closely together, keeping people healthier and treating them closer to home.”

In the long term this will provide opportunities for health practitioners such as physiotherapists and osteopaths to provide higher levels of care outside the mainstream hospital system.  Those health care providers who have streamlined their services to maximise patient treatment time are in a strong position to benefit from this new health care ethos and to provide increasing levels of care continuity to their patients and the community in which they serve.

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