Accident and Emergency

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 7th December 2004.

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Photo of Ms Lorna Fitzsimons Ms Lorna Fitzsimons Labour, Rochdale 11:30 am, 7th December 2004

What plans he has to reduce waiting times in accident and emergency departments.

Photo of John Reid John Reid Secretary of State, Department of Health, The Secretary of State for Health

Last month, 97 per cent. of patients were seen and diagnosed, and were able to begin treatment, within four hours. The NHS is on track to ensure that, by the end of this month, at least 98 per cent. of patients enjoy the same care. That is a world standard for the NHS.

Photo of Ms Lorna Fitzsimons Ms Lorna Fitzsimons Labour, Rochdale

May I bring to my right hon. Friend's attention the spectacular turnaround in the accident and emergency department of Rochdale infirmary? Is he aware that the basic ingredients for that turnaround were already in place, although investment was gratefully received? In fact it was the team of clinicians—Don, David, Rip, Selim and Mark, who are the consultants, Ann Rhodes, who was the linchpin as manager and the nursing staff—that galvanised the whole hospital to work together. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that under "Agenda for Change" and with future investment, the key role of medical secretaries, medical record staff and their senior managers will be enhanced and appreciated, because without their pivotal role—

Photo of John Reid John Reid Secretary of State, Department of Health, The Secretary of State for Health

Yes, but no one could blame my hon. Friend for lauding and celebrating the success of the NHS in Rochdale infirmary and more widely. She is right that it is a team effort. It is composed of massive investment by the taxpayer, through the Government, and massive commitment by the team in Rochdale, and others throughout the country, to reach such a world standard of treatment. The whole of the NHS is finding new ways of working, with—I have to say—a degree of leadership at local and national level from managers and chief executives, as well as clinical and administrative staff. The idea that we should throw all that away by cutting the amount of investment or abandoning that leadership and those targets and objectives is crazy, but that is what is on offer from the Opposition.

Photo of Richard Taylor Richard Taylor Independent, Wyre Forest

Does the Secretary of State agree that where there are still stresses on accident and emergency departments, one way to help would be to increase the range of work undertaken by neighbouring minor injuries units?

Photo of John Reid John Reid Secretary of State, Department of Health, The Secretary of State for Health

Yes, I do. The hon. Gentleman is learned in such matters and he appreciates the position. I visited a unit that is establishing a rapid response unit and going even further than providing fast and easy access to accident and emergency services by ensuring that people get a response in their own homes for minor injury. That is another way in which the new ways of working in the national health service are achieving better, more convenient and faster access to health care for everyone.

Photo of Brian Jenkins Brian Jenkins Labour, Tamworth

My right hon. Friend is right. The Staffordshire ambulance force is one of the best in the country, with the most rapid response times. My right hon. Friend will also be aware of the work that the London Ambulance Service is undertaking. It has a system of triage and sends out cars or motorcycles to attend some emergencies. As a result, it has cut tremendously the number of admittances by ambulance to emergency units. That is the way forward, coupled with the stationing of GPs in some accident and emergency departments to treat people who turn up on a Tuesday morning with an injury they suffered on the football field on Saturday. Will my right hon. Friend comment on the support that the Government have given to encourage innovative ways of introducing such systems?

Photo of John Reid John Reid Secretary of State, Department of Health, The Secretary of State for Health

My hon. Friend is right. I visited the service that he mentioned with him, and it has achieved astounding results. He is also right that systems are being tried and tested elsewhere in the country. Peter Bradley of the London Ambulance Service is involved in reviewing some of those procedures at the moment. The great thing about all that, which is often omitted from contributions by the Opposition and newspapers, is that huge benefits are bestowed by NHS staff who are prepared to work in ways in which they have never worked before and provide better quality and more convenient health care. A fantastic amount of work is being done to balance those things that do go wrong and the shortages and challenges that remain. I only wish we had more balanced reports on that in the public domain.