Opposition Day — [15th Allotted Day] — Accident and Emergency

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:53 pm on 18th December 2013.

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Photo of Kate Green Kate Green Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 2:53 pm, 18th December 2013

I want to speak about the current situation in Trafford and some of the lessons that Ministers might want to learn from the transition we went through when the A and E department at Trafford general hospital was downgraded to an urgent care centre and closed overnight. Despite assurances that neighbouring accident and emergency services at Manchester royal infirmary and Wythenshawe hospital would be able to cope following that change, problems are already piling up. Those problems may not have been caused wholly—or perhaps at all—by the changes at Trafford, but the impact on Trafford patients is pretty dire and we must take account of that.

Those A and E departments were already exceptionally busy, with the one at Wythenshawe working well beyond capacity. It was built to accommodate 70,000 patients a year but was already dealing with more than 100,000, as my right hon. Friend Paul Goggins pointed out from the outset. We welcome the fact that the Department now appears to have unlocked a route to additional funding for capacity at Wythenshawe, but that funding, let alone the additional capacity, is not yet in place.

As the Minister will know, in the past couple of weeks Wythenshawe A and E has reached “black” status for waiting times, and privately there are indications that the quarter 3 target for waiting times at the hospital will not be met. There are also reports that waiting queues for ambulances are doubling outside Wythenshawe hospital, and pressures are mounting at Manchester royal infirmary. The other day a constituent told me that she had visited on the evening of Sunday 8 December with her diabetic daughter and there were not even enough seats for waiting patients. Some people were forced to wait outside.

Those pressures were predicted. Last year, Manchester royal infirmary and Wythenshawe hospital struggled to meet waiting time targets, and indeed failed to meet them on at least one occasion in 30 out of 35 weeks. The

Secretary of State was clearly concerned about the pressures on those hospitals because one criterion he set down for the reconfiguration of services at Trafford was that neighbouring hospitals should consistently meet waiting times before the changes were made.

On the basis of performance in the two summer quarters, the NHS asserted that the criterion on waiting times at those hospitals had been met, despite warnings from many people—including me—that not measuring performance during the winter months would give a distorted picture of the capacity of those hospitals to cope. The Minister must recognise that that caused a great collapse of public confidence—they were not very confident about the proposals for the reconfiguration anyway—because it seemed that fudging was going on to present an impression that hospital services could cope, when it then turned out they could not. To use data that are clearly applied in a way that suits the outcome NHS managers want, rather than being in the best interests of patients, is a matter of great concern. Will the Minister say how we can have genuine and robust criteria for reconfigurations in which the public can have confidence? The total absence of clarity and the fudging over the decision at Trafford over the past few weeks has had an unfortunate effect.

When the Secretary of State announced the funding in September, neither Manchester royal infirmary nor Wythenshawe received extra money to deal with winter pressures. I was surprised because we knew by then that reconfiguration would create extra demand on those two A and E departments. I am anxious to hear from the Minister about the Department’s approach to ensuring adequate additional resource to support transition for such reconfigurations.