Leaked Letter Reveals Pressure On West Midlands A&E Departments

Irwin Mitchell Lawyers Say Action Is Needed To Ensure Patient Safety

21.05.2013

By Helen MacGregor

Medical law experts say urgent action is needed after NHS officials warned the Accident & Emergency crisis is now so severe that doctors can no longer guarantee safe care for patients.

The leaders of 20 emergency departments blame a combination of “toxic overcrowding” and “institutional exhaustion” for putting lives at risk in a leaked letter to senior NHS managers seen by The Independent newspaper.

They warn that the rising number of patients presenting themselves for treatment has created a “state of crisis” in casualty departments.

The 20 emergency medicine officials from the West Midlands tell how A&Es in the area – which provide to a population of 5.3 million and have more than 1.5 million patient attendances a year – are being overwhelmed by “unprecedented and relentless pressures”.

The letter admits that the problems facing West Midlands A&E departments have escalated to the point where doctors can no longer guarantee ‘safe and high quality’ care. The letter reads: “The aforementioned issues have led to us routinely substituting quality care with merely safe care; while this is not acceptable to us, what is entirely unacceptable is the delivery of unsafe care; but this is now the prospect we find ourselves facing on too frequent a basis.”

It also talks of the “institutional exhaustion” of the nursing, medical and clerical staff who are being pushed harder by the growing amount of work with little external support. It also describes how doctors and nurses are being forced to work in what are verging on dangerous environments.

Lisa Jordan, a Partner and head of clinical negligence at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office, said: “We are deeply concerned to hear about the escalating crisis in Accident & Emergency departments across the UK.

“This letter reflects the huge pressure on departments on our doorstep throughout the West Midlands although I don’t doubt that it will be mirrored in other regions.

“What is most worrying is the fact that health leaders admit the constant pressure on services threatens patient safety. Urgent action must be taken by the government to resolve this as quickly as possible.

“In a growing and aging population more and more people are relying on casualty departments. Action is needed to cope with this demand and ensure staff at all levels have the time and resources needed to provide patients with the safe, quality care they deserve.” 

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to Accident and Emergency claims