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Govt: 'No easy fix' to A&E recruitment shortage

The Government has hit out at claims it has no clear plan for aiding struggling A&E services and claimed there "was no easy fix" to the problem.

Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said successive Governments had failed to come up with a recruitment plan to train and hire specialist emergency care doctors.

Working with the College of Emergency Medicine we have a clear strategy to tackle the shortage, and have 414 more A&E consultants than there were in 2009, as well as filling all training places for doctors choosing to specialise in A&E.

It takes six years to train an A&E consultant, and there is no easy fix - but our long-term plans are robust, increasing the number of training places by 75 next year, and planning for all trainee doctors to spend time in A&E.

– Dr Dan Poulter

Read: 'Chronic shortage' of staff hindering A&E improvements

'Chronic shortage' of staff hindering A&E improvements

The "chronic shortage" of trained A&E doctors is suffocating any attempts to improve emergency admissions services, the head of the Public Accounts Committee has warned.

Margaret Hodge criticised the NHS' reliance on temporary staff, which she dubbed "expensive" and not capable of offering "the same quality of service".

Any attempt to improve emergency admissions services in the NHS is being completely stymied by the chronic shortage of specialist A&E consultants.

Nearly one fifth of consultant posts in emergency departments were either vacant or filled by locums in 2012. There are also major problems in training enough doctors in emergency medicine.

What we found amazing is that neither the Department nor NHS England has a clear strategy to tackle the shortage of A&E consultants.

With many hospitals struggling to fill vacant posts for A&E consultants, there is too much reliance on temporary staff to fill gaps.

– Margaret Hodge

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MPs call for doctors to be 'enticed' into struggling A&Es

Specially trained emergency care doctors should be enticed to work at struggling hospitals by higher pay, a group of MPs has said.

Read: Repeat patients increase pressure on A&E

Ambulance
PAC criticised the Department of Health and NHS England for not having a "clear strategy" to combat overwhelmed A&E services. Credit: PA

The influential Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said struggling A&E services had been "hampered" by a lack of consultant care.

They also criticised both the Department of Health and NHS England for not having a "clear strategy for tackling the chronic shortage of A&E consultants".

"Many hospitals, especially those facing the greatest challenges, struggle to fill vacant posts for A&E consultants," the report states.

"There is too great a reliance on temporary staff to fill gaps, which is expensive and does not offer the same quality of service."

Read: Govt funding relief for A&Es

Read: Doctors 'handed up to £3,000 a shift' to plug rota gaps

Labour: 'Crisis deterring doctors from going into A&E'

Commenting on doctors being paid as much as £3,000 a shift, Andrew Gwynne MP, Labour's Shadow Health Minister, said:

David Cameron's A&E crisis is deterring newly qualified doctors from going into emergency medicine.Top A&E doctors warned the Prime Minister of a looming recruitment crisis but he ignored their pleas. He's left the NHS with a dangerous shortage of A&E doctors and a bill for locums which is now spiralling out of control.

This is an A&E crisis of the Government's own making. They are paying more for an A&E service which is getting worse by the week. And things have got so bad that many doctors are deciding to quit.

Ministers must urgently take action to bring down the bill for locum doctors.

A&E agency workers 'paid £250 million' in 2013

The highest £3,717 payout for a 30-hour shift to cover a gap in an A&E rota was handed to a doctor at Wye Valley NHS Trust last September, in Herefordshire, according the Telegraph.

The newspaper said the trust did not outline how much of the 30-hour shift was spent working at the hospital, nor how much was on call.

According to the report, one locum doctor who worked one 24-hour shift at Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals Foundation Trust was handed £3,027.

But the the figures included fees paid to agencies, which can take up to 15 per cent.

The total bill for these agency workers in 2013 was almost £250 million, according to the figures, meaning a rise of one third in two years.

Doctors 'handed up to £3,000 a shift' to plug rota gaps

Hard pressed Accident and Emergency departments are paying locum doctors over £1,000 a shift, while consultants are being handed more than £3,000 and nurses as much as £1,600, according the Telegraph.

Doctors 'paid £3,000 a shift'. Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The newspaper said its investigation found that NHS hospitals are paying doctors as much as £3,000 a shift to fill “endemic” A&E staff shortages

According to official figures, locum doctors were paid over £1,000 to plug holes in A&E department rotas on at least 2,300 occasions last year.

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A&E admissions rise in 'very busy week'

Admissions to emergency hospital units in England rose by over 1,000 last week in what the NHS called a "very busy" period.

Admissions to emergency hospital units rose last week, continuing a trend of higher A&E admissions
Admissions to emergency hospital units rose last week, continuing a trend of higher A&E admissions Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Emergency admissions rose to 106,230 from 105,053 the week before, and were over 6,000 higher compared to the same seven-day period last year.

The NHS missed its target of treating 95 per cent of patients within four hours, instead hitting 94.3 per cent, as 418,838 people went to A&E departments in the week ending 9 February.

Dr Sarah Pinto-Duschinsky, director of operations and delivery for NHS England, said the increase "is in line with the emerging trend, which has seen a 31 per cent rise in [the] number of people needing emergency admission to hospital over the last 10 years".

Poll: Britons expect to wait longer in A&E at weekends

The vast majority of people believe that it would take longer to be seen by a doctor in A&E at the weekend than if they went during the week, an ITV News poll has found.

Some 76% thought they would have to wait longer in A&E at the weekend. Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Some 76% said they would expect to wait longer to see a doctor in A&E at the weekend, while 14% disagreed and 10% said they did not know, according to the ITV News Index carried out by ComRes.

Nearly four in five Britons (78%) said that senior doctors in intensive care units should also be required to work weekends if senior doctors in A&E departments are required to.

Patients urged to chose pharmacy over GP

Health chiefs have urged potential patients to check if their complaint can be cured by their local pharmacist before visiting a GP, in a letter to a national newspaper.

Read more: Govt funding relief for A&Es

Pharmacy
Health chiefs have warned the NHS will collapse if the public do not rely on their pharmacist more. Credit: PA

Writing in the Times, 23 key health groups, including the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Nursing and the College of Emergency Medicine urged people to call at their pharmacists first.

They say the NHS will "collapse" if the British public do not start to use their pharmacist more when suffering from coughs, flu, aches, pains and common childhood sickness.

One in seven GP appointments could be dealt with by pharmacists and a further one in twelve emergency hospital visits could also be handled on the high street, doctors say.

Maureen Baker, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: “We’re not trying to discourage people if they really want to see a GP, but we’re saying it’s an option. They can walk in and see the pharmacist very quickly, so it isn’t dangerous.”

Read more: 1/3 'experienced poor NHS care'

Repeat patients increase pressure on A&E

Almost 12,000 people visited A&E more than 10 times last year Credit: Vhris Radburn/PA Wire

A small group of NHS patients are adding to pressures on accident and emergency departments by going to casualty dozens of times a year, according to an investigation by the BBC.

Figures obtained under freedom of information legislation showed that almost 12,000 people made more than 10 visits to the same A&E unit in 2012/13, with just over 150 attending on more than 50 occasions.

In the most extreme cases, one patient at Luton and Dunstable Hospital went to casualty 234 times over the course of the year, while another person went to Sheffield's Northern General 223 times.

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