News that Accident & Emergency Departments are ‘not coping’ in the face of increasing demand and too few staff is disturbing. The government has repeatedly said that ‘efficiency savings’ will not affect frontline care. The reality is that Casualty Units really are the frontline.
One sign of creaking services is that widespread failure to treat patients within 4 hours of their arrival. The four hour target was scrapped earlier this year but in nearly 300,000 cases in the last 6 months of 2010 Casualty Departments could not meet the target.
Yet Casualty Departments are responsible for life-changing decisions daily. I regularly deal with the consequences of things going wrong and the consequences for people can be devastating. Within the last few days I have spent time with the family of a woman who died of a ruptured aorta – the main blood vessel leading from the heart – within 15 hours of her being sent home diagnosed with urinary tract infection. I have also recently seen someone who suffered a disabling stroke after his serious symptoms of a heart infection were missed. More common are the missed fractures which go on to heal in the wrong place, often causing major disability.
So we need to listen to people like John Heyworth, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, when he says that the system is ‘fragile’ and is crying out for greater investment with consultant available in every department 16 hours per day.
Paul Sankey is a solicitor specialising in clinical negligence. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch