Real solutions to London’s A&E crisis

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 23rd May 2019.

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Photo of Onkar Sahota Onkar Sahota Labour

The latest NHS figures show more patients than ever before waiting more than four hours in London A&Es. But as my report, “Austerity: overstretching our A&E departments” sets out, this is the tip of the iceberg in terms of falling A&E performance. I welcome your work funding social workers in A&Es and reducing falls through the Fire, Safe and Well Programme. But what more can be done to get London’s struggling A&Es back on track?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Thank you, Chair. All Londoners should have access to the best health and care services in the world. My formal power as Mayor of London in relation to the NHS is very limited but I am championing and challenging the work of the health and care system whilst working with partners to address the wider causes of Londoners’ health.

I share Assembly Member Sahota’s concerns about increase in waiting times for patients in accident and emergency departments (A&Es). As highlighted in his report, the missed four‑hour target is one of many metrics in the NHS that is not performing as expected.

These missed targets are a sign of the continued pressures facing the entire health and care system. Staff in London’s hospitals and A&Es do an incredible job in difficult circumstances and frontline workers need more support from the Government and sustained investment in the services they provide. I regularly meet with senior leaders in the NHS to discuss this and other issues. Performance is always on our agenda and I help to hold the NHS to account on behalf of all Londoners.

However, the NHS alone cannot solve the problem of pressures on A&Es: health, social care and indeed public health services are inextricably linked and the Government’s austerity policies in one area will undoubtedly affect other areas, too. I will continue to call on the Government to give London the resources it needs to properly invest in the NHS and social care by reversing the cuts to the public health grant.

Photo of Onkar Sahota Onkar Sahota Labour

Thank you, Mr Mayor, for that answer. Over the last ten years, we have seen a reduction of 2,200 hospital beds in London. The occupancy rate of beds is much higher than is desirable for safety or care. Can you make sure through your Health Board that there are no more bed closures taking place in London without your six tests being fulfilled?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Absolutely. One of the reasons why I commissioned King’s [College London] to do this piece of work was the concern that you have been raising publicly for some time now about some of the decisions made by the Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships. My six tests have been shared with the Health Board and I expect them to be met. Otherwise, any changes to do with major health and care transformation or service configuration will not have my support.

Photo of Onkar Sahota Onkar Sahota Labour

Of course, Mr Mayor, you will, I am sure, want to join me in congratulating all those people who campaigned very hard to save the A&Es at Charing Cross Hospital and Ealing Hospital. We told them that it was something they should not have done and the Secretary of State [The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP] has now reversed that. Would you join me in congratulating the hard work of all the campaigners in west London who saved the beds in Charing Cross and Ealing Hospitals?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Can I, through you, congratulate not just you but all those campaigners, local residents, a significant number of clinicians, the Council, parliamentarians, successors over many periods, but you never gave up and you carried on lobbying and campaigning. I am pleased that this Government has done a U‑turn in its previous awful decision and I hope at least the Government is listening more to residents and clinicians when it comes to these sorts of decisions.

Photo of Onkar Sahota Onkar Sahota Labour

Of course you know that is getting much more difficult now to see a general practitioner (GP) in this country. We had 65 GPs per 100,000 population. Now we have 60 GPs per 100,000. We have high vacancy rates of nurses in London. We know that it is difficult to get to see a health visitor or midwife. Also, the waiting time on the trolleys has doubled in the last year. People waiting more than twelve hours has doubled.

Of course we will meet constituents in our daily lives who will complain about the NHS and will say what their problems are, and it is very important that politicians do not dismiss their concerns as pure hype. These are the real experiences of people in the NHS.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Chair, I find it offensive that anybody would characterise the concerns people raise about the NHS as ‘hype’. It is not hype when we have lost over 2,300 beds in London. It is not hype when we have increasing pressures on overstretched staff and fewer left on the front line. It is not hype when we have the number of patients lying on trolleys for more than twelve hours doubling over the last few years. Any politician who thinks this is hype is not fit to hold public office.

Photo of Onkar Sahota Onkar Sahota Labour

Thank you, Mr Mayor, for being so clear in your answer.