The ambulance service and A&Es are ‘at the point of meltdown’ claims the leader of Ealing council as new figures released show a sharp rise in emergency incidents.
Councillor Julian Bell has called for the ‘immediate halting of the proposal’ to close A&Es across North West London in light of figures recently released by the London Ambulance Service (LAS), which show a rise of over 20 per cent in life-threatening incidents.
During the first week of December London Ambulance had the busiest ever week in Ealing for Category A incidents; patients in a serious and life-threatening condition.
The LAS attended 429 Category A incidents during the week beginning November 30, compared to 356 the week before (that’s an increase of 20.5%).
In November 2014 the ambulance service attended 1,662 Category A incidents in Ealing compared to 1,514 in November 2013 showing an increase of 9.8%.
Ealing Council Leader Julian Bell said: “We have been warning for a long time that the A&E closures would put lives at risk and it is incredibly worrying that this record demand is bringing the ambulance service and A&Es to the point of meltdown. With a population that is growing rapidly and becoming more elderly it was entirely predictable that demand would grow and that it was reckless and dangerous to close A&Es. We need an immediate decision to halt the proposed closure of Ealing and Charing Cross A&Es and immediate action to tackle this crisis.”
On September 10 Hammersmith and Central Middlesex A&E closed their doors. Ealing and Charing Cross A&Es are not as yet confirmed to be closing.
Director of Operations, Jason Killens said: “We are already facing pressure due to increasing demand and a shortage of staff and we’re expecting to be very busy this festive season. Because it takes three years to train a paramedic we’ve been to Australia to recruit the cream of the crop and have 175 Australian paramedics joining us from January.
“In contrast to these life threatening incidents - Londoners have also been asking for an emergency ambulance on blue lights for a cat with a broken leg, a person with a tissue in his ear and a woman with period pain.
“Our highly skilled clinicians respond to life and death situations daily. We will continue to prioritise our ambulance crews so we get to the most seriously ill or injured patients first. But Londoners with less serious injuries and illnesses should call NHS 111, visit their GP or pharmacist, or alternatively make their own way to hospital.”
Dr Mohini Parmar, chair of Ealing CCG, said: "The Secretary of State asked for the A&Es at Central Middlesex and Hammersmith to be closed as soon as practicable. This was based on clinically safety concerns. No lives were put at risk and no capacity was lost as a result of this change.
"In London, and beyond, a number of Trusts are struggling with increased pressures at this time of year. Pressures on A&E are often about having the beds elsewhere in the hospital to admit people to and then having the services in the community so people can be discharged from those beds as soon as appropriate. A significant part of the plans for North West London are more out of hospital services, nearer to people's homes, as A&E is not always the best place for people to be. As we have set out previously, these are long term plans to improve care for the 2 million residents of North West London.
"The plans for Ealing and Charing Cross are to invest in these hospitals to respond to the needs of the local population. Both will have a 24/7 urgent care centre and A&E, although we are currently awaiting the outcome of a national review before we can confirm exactly what services the A&Es at Ealing and Charing Cross will provide. For us to have an answer on the exact specification of the hospitals now would be to neglect to spend the appropriate time on these plans and to listen to the health needs of the local population."