St Helier was the only NHS hospital trust in the capital with an accident and emergency department which actually met its waiting time targets, according to the most recent data available.
St Helier, of course, is under constant threat of being closed down, in part or even completely, by the latest round of Tory government cuts, or what they like to call “reforms”.
In common with every other hospital A&E department in the capital, Croydon’s Mayday failed to achieve its government-set target to see 95 per cent of patients within four hours in February this year.
Labour’s health spokesman at the London Assembly, Dr Onkar Sahota, said that health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s “uncompromising squeeze” on Trusts’ finances is leaving over-burdened health services struggling to provide the patient care that are expected to deliver. Dr Sahota said he would ask the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to lobby NHS London to find ways of improving support for the capital’s struggling trusts.
The hospital trust which oversees the running of Mayday (which some people call Croydon University Hospital), was placed in “special measures” last year for failing to balance its books and is now implementing the latest round of cuts to its spending, in parallel with a round of cuts being applied to GPs and other medical services in the borough, some of which go directly against what is advised to be best medical practice.
The government’s 95 per cent target includes patients at A&E, specialist, and urgent care centres, but in January Hunt told the House of Commons he will soon be watering down the targets again to include only the most serious cases.
The latest NHS data shows that in February 2017 almost all hospital A&E departments (excluding specialist and GP-led urgent care centres) failed to see 95 per cent of patients within four hours. St Helier, formally known as Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, was the only London Trust to hit the target that month.
Across London patients attending Type 1 A&E departments waited longer than four hours on 40,150 occasions in February, down from 55,360 in January. Most Trusts showed some improvement on January, though this is to be expected as total attendances fell from 241,867 in January to 216,266 in February.
In the last 12 months, only two trusts – Epsom and St Helier and Homerton University – have managed to see over 95 per cent of patients in less than four hours.
Dr Sahota called on the government to “recognise the need to meet increasing pressures by increasing funding”.
However, proposals set out in the new Sustainability and Transformation Plans are expected to leave a £4.3billion shortfall by 2021. A&E departments at three other London hospitals have been earmarked for closure, and St Helier is one of the five acute hospitals in south-west London, all of which run A&E departments, of which one must be selected to close under STP.
And any closure in the area, especially of such a significant hospital as St Helier, is sure to have a knock-on effect to demand for services at nearby hospitals, including Mayday and Purley.
“The worry is that this is no longer a winter crisis but a perennial crisis, of the government’s making,” Dr Sahota said. “Hunt’s uncompromising squeeze on Trusts’ finances is leaving London’s health services over-burdened and struggling to provide the best patient care. The strain is taking its toll, with low morale setting in across the workforce.
“The government must recognise the need to meet increasing pressures by increasing funding. Expecting Trusts to carry on as they are with no additional resource is neither fair to patients, nor realistic.”
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