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Region receives £11.38m to prevent hospital A&E crisis
HEALTH chiefs across the region have been handed £11.38m of emergency cash to prevent an A&E crisis – just weeks after ministers insisted they didn’t need it.
The money has been paid out to GPs to devise schemes to “minimise A&E attendance and hospital admissions” during the highly-pressured winter months.
They will also be expected to work with hospitals to treat more patients at weekends and tackle so-called ‘bed-blocking’ – when patients stay on wards unnecessarily.
The funding was announced as Labour staged a Westminster ‘summit’ on the issue, warning that 2013 was “the worst year in a decade in A&E”.
Highlighting longer ambulance queues, health spokesman Andy Burnham said: “There are genuine concerns now about the service's ability to cope over what we expect will be a very difficult winter.”
Among the health workers present was a paramedic who said the use of private ambulances was again on the rise in North Yorkshire.
There was anger, back in September, when North-East hospitals missed out on a £235m cash injection to ease pressures in casualty departments.
On that occasion, the department of health (DH) described the decision as a compliment, because cash was going “to the areas that need it most”.
But ministers have now found an extra £150m, which has been allocated to GP-led clinical commission groups (CCGs), which ‘buy’ treatments and services.
In a letter to CCGs, outgoing NHS chief executive David Nicholson wrote that he now believed they too would “benefit from additional resources”
Meanwhile, Mr Burnham revealed an increase in the number of emergency patients “trapped in the back of an ambulance” outside full A&E departments for more than 30 minutes.
Across the country, the figure rose by 40,000 compared with last year - to 255,000 – but no figures were available for the North-East or Yorkshire.
Debbie Wilkinson, a paramedic from Yorkshire, said her Unite union had noted a return of private ambulances in North Yorkshire, operating out of Malton.
She said the staff did not wear badges displaying their “skill level”, adding: “It means we don’t know what level of crew they are, whether they need back up on a job.
“Not only is it embarrassing in front of the patient, but it means I may have to travel with them as a paramedic responder.”
In response, Mr Burnham said the use of private ambulances went against calls, by NHS medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, for more skilled crews.
He said: “It seems to me that most ambulance services are going in precisely the opposite direction to the one recommended by the Keogh review.”
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