£500m bailout for struggling accident and emergeny units

7 August 2013 Last updated at 19:10 Share this pageEmailPrint

Struggling A&E units ‘to get £500m bailout’

By Nick Triggle

Struggling A&E units in England are to get a £500m bailout over the next two years to ensure waiting times are kept under control, the BBC understands.

Problems in A&E units have stabilised in recent months, but from January to March the NHS missed its four-hour waiting time target as long waits hit their highest level for nine years.

The £500m will come from Department of Health efficiency savings, reports say.

It comes just a fortnight after MPs said plans in place were inadequate.

The Health Select Committee said the “confusing” and “contradictory” information it had received raised questions over whether the NHS would be in a position to cope better next winter.

During the cross-party group’s investigation, the MPs found just 17% of hospitals had the recommended level of consultant cover, while difficulties with discharging patients and a lack of beds at times meant the flow of patients through the system was disrupted.

Details of how the new money will be spent are expected to be announced on Thursday but the money is expected to be focused on the minority of the 168 A&E units with the worst problems.

But doctors have cast doubt over the impact the expected extra money would have in the NHS, which has an overall budget of more than £100bn.

Dr Clifford Mann, of the College of Emergency Medicine, said: “It is a short-term fix. It does not address the underlying cause – we have a shortage of doctors.

“It is also very demoralising. Only the hospitals that are deemed to have failed will get the money. Those that worked hard to keep going are not getting anything.”

Shadow health minister Jamie Reed said: “David Cameron’s A&E crisis is a symptom of wider problems in the NHS and care system, which this announcement will not address.”

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