The budget was a huge let-down for Sunderland. Nothing for the health service and only some for social care; but nowhere near what is needed to fill the gap.
£2billion nationally over three years is what the Government plans to provide, even though the King’s Fund health charity has stated we need £2billion this year alone.
It’s just not good enough.
Sadly, the latest local figures for waiting times at Accident & Emergency – as well as the performance of the 111 NHS non-emergency line – are not good enough either.
Indeed, last month Sunderland Hospital Trust met its target for a maximum of four hours waiting time just 84 percent of the time.
This means that 16% of people who attended A&E in February had to wait longer than four hours – a figure rising month-on-month.
I know that staff at Sunderland Hospitals work incredibly hard, but the system simply isn’t coping. Investment is needed urgently.
Regrettably, 111 is making matters worse. The service, run locally by North East Ambulance Service, started in 2013 – taking over from the successful NHS Direct.
It is now staffed mainly by call-handlers, with fewer nurses or medically trained people answering phones.
These handlers try their best, but rely on a checklist to diagnose symptoms – the result being too many people are sent an ambulance or to A&E.
There is significant regional variation in 111 performance, with the North East doing very badly. Some 17% of people here are sent an often-unnecessary ambulance.This situation is compounded by people seeking out-of-hours GP appointments having to go through lengthy 111 triage calls – to eventually be given the appointment they knew they needed.
I would like to hear your experiences of A&E, and particularly of the 111 service, to help me press Government to improve things. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org