Andrew Smith MP

On your side in Oxford East

Accident & emergency waits a real worry

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The coalition told us the NHS would be safe, but it has axed almost 4,500 nurses, and A&E units are struggling.

Staffing shortages across the NHS have left A&E departments over-stretched and under severe pressure, and I am increasingly hearing worrying reports of ambulances queuing outside and patients left on waiting for hours on end.

Recently published figures show that that the target of 95 per cent of patients being seen within four hours is now being regularly missed by the A&E unit at the John Radcliffe Hospital -- as well as countless other hospitals across the country. The statistics have fallen from an average of 98 per cent in October last year to 83 per cent in March, and 81 per cent for the first three weeks of April.

Nurses are the backbone of our NHS but the Government has failed to grasp the seriousness of its cuts to nursing numbers and the impact on A&E units like the John Radcliffe Hospital. It is unacceptable that patients in need of emergency care should be paying the price for government austerity measures.
As well as the pressures on nursing staff, it seems that problems with patients accessing out of hours GPs and delayed discharge to care home placements are likely to have had an impact.

I have contacted Sir Jonathan Michael, the Chief Executive of Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUHT) to seek assurances that steps are being taken to address the problem in Oxford.

The Government as a whole must also devise an urgent plan to bring all A&Es up to the required standard and ensure there are enough staff on the ground across the NHS to provide the safe care we need.

I am proud of the Labour Party's record in government. When the party left office, patient satisfaction was at an all time high, waiting times were at a record low and we increased the number of nurses by over 80,000.

We need to ensure that our NHS is protected and that numbers of nursing staff are maintained, otherwise A&E waiting times will continue to rise and standards of care will suffer.

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