A&E revelations: NHS 'not safe in Cameron's hands'

Nurses hitting out, but Jeremy Hunt on the offensive, too
Nurses hitting out, but Jeremy Hunt on the offensive, too
Alex Stevenson By

David Cameron and Ed Miliband drove each other into the ground over the NHS this lunchtime, in a gruelling Commons exchange.

The leader of the opposition used all his questions in PMQs to challenge Cameron over his management of the health service, after the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) claimed patients are paying the price for intense pressure on the NHS by finding themselves reshuffled around hospital wards.

Miliband said its report revealed the NHS was in "crisis" and faced "total chaos". He added: "A&E is the barometer of the NHS. That barometer is telling us it is a system in distress."

Bed shortages in accident and emergency are causing knock-on problems throughout hospitals, resulting in patients being "scattered round hospitals like confetti", the RCN found.

That has led to nurses regularly being forced to go on "safari" to find patients lost in the corridors or other wards.

It follows separate research by the Royal College of Physicians which found patients can be moved up to five times during their stay in hospital.

Cameron responded by accusing Labour of having been "irresponsible" with the NHS and insisted the NHS was "performing better under this government".

Those wanting to understand Labour's record need have "only got to read the report into Mid-Staffordshire", he declared.

Miliband dismissed that claim as a "disgraceful slur" on NHS staff and told MPs the prime minister was "wasting billions of pounds on a top-down reorganisation.

He concluded by saying: "The NHS is not safe in his hands."

The RCN fears the situation will only get worse. Its report Frontline First has identified nearly 70,000 posts which are set to be cut by the next general election, in addition to the 25,000 already axed.

"Tens of thousands of posts have already been cut with even more expected," chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said.

"The effects are already being felt on the ground, with hospitals and emergency departments unable to cope with soaring demand."

Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne said the reports should trigger "alarm bells" in the Department of Health.

"Patients should not be subjected to poor care because of ministers' failings," he said.

"The government must devise an urgent plan to bring all A&Es up to the required standard of care."

The RCN's claims are the latest hostile accusations emerging from their conference in Liverpool, where delegates gathered to condemn the government's approach show no signs of letting up.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt hit back at the body, which is resisting his calls to boost compassion in the NHS, by saying they "missed" the appalling levels of care seen at Mid Staffordshire hospital, in which 1,200 people died unnecessarily.

"The Francis Report levelled some very serious criticisms. It said that they basically allowed their trade union responsibilities to trump their responsibilities as a royal college to raise professional standards," he told Sky News earlier this week.

"Before they start criticising the government for accepting recommendations that are going to improve compassionate care throughout the NHS, they need to answer those very, very serious criticisms."


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