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NHS chiefs read the riot act over poor A&E performance

This article was taken from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/18/nhs-chiefs-read-riot-act-poor-ae-performance/

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NHS hospital chiefs have been hauled in by Jeremy Hunt over poor performance, in a desperate bid to head off an Accident & Emergency crisis.

It follows warnings that the NHS could be facing the worst flu season in its history, and orders to all NHS trusts to empty thousands of beds.

Ministers and health officials fear that one in three hospitals are struggling so badly that safety could be compromised as pressures mount.

Two chief executives have just been forced out, with around 60 more ordered to a mandatory all-day meeting yesterday, where they were warned to make urgent improvements.

Mr Hunt, Simon Stevens, chief executive of the NHS, and Jim Mackey, chief executive of regulator NHS Improvement, all made plain their frustration that long waiting times have become “normalised” – long before winter sets in.

The warnings come after Australia has seen the worst flu season in at least 15 years, with more than twice as many cases as last year.  The winter season in the southern hemisphere falls six months earlier, giving an indication of what is likely to spread across the globe.

Casualty units should treat at least 95 per cent of patients within four hours of arrival.

But latest figures show this was achieved in just 90.3 per cent of cases in August – with half of all breaches occuring in 35 trusts.

A spokesman for NHS Improvement last night said: “It is very clear that we all need to make every effort to prepare for winter, a potential flu outbreak, and learning from last winter. Throughout this, safety is paramount and our key consideration.

“Performance at the organisations invited to today’s meeting is poor. We want to work with them and with their local health systems so that it improves in future.”

Why is the NHS under so much pressure?

An ageing population. There are one million more people over the age of 65 than five years ago

Cuts to budgets for social care. While the NHS budget has been protected, social services for home helps and other care have fallen by 11 per cent in five years

This has caused record levels of bedblocking, meaning elderly people with no medical need to be in hospital are stuck there. Latest quarterly show occupancy rates are the highest they have ever been at this stage of the year, while days lost to bedblocking are up by one third in a year

Meanwhile rising numbers of patients are turning up in A&E – around four million more in the last decade, partly fuelled by the ageing population

Shortages of GPs mean waiting times to see a doctor have got longer, and many argue that access to doctors since a 2004 contract removed responsibility for out of hours care.

Matthew Kershaw, chief executive of East Kent Hospitals University Foundation trust, and Libby McManus, chief executive of North Middlesex Hospital in North London, both resigned on Friday, amid pressure from ministers and watchdogs.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Preparing for winter is a top priority for the Health Secretary.  Today he met a number of NHS leaders to emphasise the importance of continuing to provide high standards of care throughout the winter period.”