Could £500m Improve Standards In A&E?
20th September 2013
A&E departments are struggling under austerity measures harder than most, with huge amounts of pressure leading to unnecessary death, patient suffering, and medical negligence claims against the NHS. Recent scandals about hospitals and NHS Trusts have usually been focused around A&E departments, with disproportionately-high death rates shaking the public’s faith in the NHS.
The escalating pressures and clinical negligence isn’t just due to a squeeze on budgets – it is estimated that around one million more people visit A&E annually than did in 2009. Adverse weather conditions, such as heatwaves and cold winters, can cause a massive spike in A&E visitors and cause the pressure to become overwhelming.
The government has recently unveiled an extra £500 million in funding for A&E departments, which is to last for two years and is expected to be spent in preparing hospitals for winter. The extra pressure on hospitals during winter can lead to clinical negligence compensation claims, so additional cash could actually save the NHS money.
Nonetheless, £500 million is a drop in the ocean when compared to the NHS’ annual budget of around £109 billion, and it is unlikely that the extra funding injection will make a lot of difference.
It is hoped that the NHS will invest in equipment and services now to prepare for the winter. At the moment, A&Es are handling the summer weather as well as would be expected, but the rising pressure over winter could cause medical negligence claims to spike.
Local schemes could prevent medical negligence compensation claims
The Department of Health intends for this money to be spent through local initiatives. These could be schemes to reduce the amount of time people spend in A&E and to improve their treatment when they go to hospital. These could involve 7-day social work, a larger number of intermediate care beds, extended pharmacy services or longer opening hours for walk-in centres.
Hospital specialists may be appointed to help elderly people receive medical treatment, while consultants may be told to review all ambulance arrivals to determine the best course of care for patients at as early a stage as possible.
However, while these strategies may result in improvements to patient healthcare, it may not make a huge deal of difference to medical negligence claims in A&E. It could also be the case that the hospitals that manage to cope are unable to receive the cash they need, while those functioning the worst will receive additional funding and spend it badly.
It could be somewhat demoralising for hospitals that successfully prevent clinical negligence claims to realise that they will not receive any money from this funding pot.
Our medical negligence solicitors have seen how intense A&E departments can become during winter or in peak hours, and the huge number of patients makes unnecessary personal injuries almost inevitable. While we remain optimistic about this monetary boost, the problems in A&E run much deeper than this funding pot and will cost far more than £500 million to remedy.