Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1587      March 27, 2013

Staff shortage will see 999 calls “ignored”

Britain: A nurse staff shortage in the West Midlands could mean 999 calls going “unanswered” as paramedics fill in, an ambulance chief has warned. West Mids assistant chief ambulance officer Steve Wheaton also said patients are being kept on trolleys in corridors outside accident and emergency units because there are not enough beds.

He called it “a national problem” affecting hospitals and ambulance services.

“Our paramedics are ending up doing nurses’ jobs, while our response times are going down the pan,” Mr Wheaton said. “Somebody is going to have a serious ‘off’ in the street, and we aren’t going to be there.”

He said the problem was the equivalent of having eight ambulance crews “sitting around doing nothing but nursing patients in hospital corridors.”

The problem is not unprecedented and has been getting “progressively worse” for the last few years, said Mr Wheaton.

In one case he said the paramedics stayed with a patient for six hours at a hospital in Dudley, while elsewhere 23 out of 26 ambulances were queued up at a Warwickshire hospital waiting to hand over patients to nurses.

Earlier this month there was “no cover across Coventry and Warwickshire for 15 minutes” because crews were waiting to hand over.

Mr Wheaton said the trust is on course to miss its response target for the first time in 18 months. His comments came on the day the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham announced it was reopening two wards at its old, neighbouring hospital site to meet what the health trust’s boss called “unprecedented demand across the region.”

And in Yorkshire, ambulance staff have voted to strike after ambulance trust bosses derecognised their union Unite. The union is resisting plans to downgrade skilled paramedics and replace them with “ambulance assistants.”

Unite issued a public warning that the move would put patients at risk – and the trust withdrew union recognition.

Morning Star  

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