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Safety fears as A&E departments struggle

Author: Doug Trask

Safety concerns have been raised about almost 70 per cent of A&E units in England with inspectors blaming the underfunding of council care services for causing overcrowding in hospitals.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) review said emergency care was one of the poorest-performing parts of the system. It highlighted safety as a major weakness, with 22 of 184 units rated inadequate and another 95 units requiring improvement.

An A&E unit can be judged to be inadequate on safety if there is overcrowding or delays in resuscitation bays, or getting access to key equipment. The CQC stated that any dangerously unsafe units would have immediate action taken, including the suspension of services.

The CQC chief executive stated that the council care system had reached “tipping point” and was in the worst state he could recall during his 38 year career within the system. He even called on Ministers to pump more money into the council care system.

Just under £8 billion a year is spent on services; a fall of 9% in the past 5 years.

Significantly, the CQC team that monitors the care market was worried about the future of the sector. At present, most care is provided by outside agencies, but paid for by councils. Of further concern, the CQC reported that increasing numbers of care homes were closing and companies were handing back contracts to councils.

When the CQC is particularly concerned about safety, or the quality of care, it can take enforcement action which includes fines and closing down services. It also has new powers to prosecute the worst case providers.

Although the CQC have raised concerns during their reviews, they also highlighted many good examples of care provided amongst the 20,000 inspections that are carried out. To put matters in perspective, despite the cut backs to council care services, the help that was being provided in the home and in care homes was rated as good or outstanding in 72% of cases.

If you or any member of your family has had a bad experience, either at a hospital A&E department, or with care received either in their home or in a care home, you may wish to consult us. We would be happy to provide free initial advice either in a no-obligation appointment at this office or by way of a telephone appointment. In certain circumstances, a home visit may also be possible. If we are able to pursue a claim for you, we would look to offer you a no win no fee arrangement and we would fully explain how this works.