On Tuesday morning we saw reports of huge pressure in Accident and Emergency departments all over the country. I contacted the Chair of the Royal Bolton Hospital to get find out what the situation was here and I was shocked by what I was told.
Patients were waiting more than 12 hours to get a bed after being admitted to the hospital by A&E. There were 76 patients, that’s enough to fill four wards, ready to go home but without the social care support available to discharge them.
Later that day the Royal Bolton publicly declared a 'major incident', asking people not to attend A&E unless it was absolutely necessary and implementing an emergency plan that is used in the case of a natural disaster or multi-vehicle smashes.
This new crisis is just a symptom of issues within the NHS that have been getting worse and worse in the last few years. People can’t get an appointment with their GP, so they go to A&E. They can’t get the help they need in their own homes from social services, so their conditions get worse and they end up in A&E. Bolton’s walk-in-centre has been closed down to save money, meaning even more people go to A&E.
On Wednesday, I asked the Secretary of State for Health what is being done to address the issues in Social Care that are contributing to this crisis. The Health Secretary told me that there will be more cooperation between the NHS and Local Authorities, but he failed to mention that councils are having to find £100million of savings which is certain to impact on social care.
I have also tabled an Early Day Motion to ask MPs to show their support for NHS walk-in-centres. I think the local CCG were wrong to close ours in 2012 and I know many others across the country have been lost. They play an important role in reducing pressure at both A&E and at GP surgeries and I want to see the Government give more support to this important service.