DOCTORS have issued a chilling warning that patient safety can no longer be guaranteed at Worcestershire’s A&E departments.
Top emergency doctors from A&E wards at Worcester and Redditch have written to senior NHS managers labelling the current situation in their departments a “crisis”.
The letter, initially leaked to a national newspaper, warns of “toxic overcrowding”, “institutional exhaustion” and says staff are “frequently operating at the absolute margins of clinical safety”.
It warns: “What is entirely unacceptable is the delivery of unsafe care, but that is now the prospect we find ourselves facing on too frequent a basis.”
The letter has been signed by top doctors from 18 of 21 A&E departments in the West Midlands.
Your Worcester News has learned emergency consultants James France and Chris Hetherington, who are based at Worcestershire Royal and Redditch Alexandra hospitals respectively, were among those to back the letter.
Worcestershire has been one of the areas hardest hit by the overcrowding and delays hitting emergency departments up-and-down the country.
Targets for seeing 95 per cent patients of A&E patients within four hours have been repeatedly missed, dropping as low as 80 per cent during February, although NHS bosses say the situation has now started to improve.
Emergency admissions nationally have risen by 50 per cent.
Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation - the voice of all organisations that commission and provide NHS services - also hit out at the problems.
“The recent headlines do not lie - the pressures are growing and we are getting closer and closer to the cliff edge,” he said.
“If we continue with this trend we will see another extra half a million patients cramming into our A&E departments in the next three years.
“This will be simply impossible for our hospital services to cope with, despite the heroic efforts of staff to date.”
A West Midlands spokesman from NHS England said: “This increase (in demand) reflects a rising demand for emergency care, although nationally over the last three weeks the emergency department target to see 95 per cent of all patients within four hours has been met.
“This has also been reflected in the West Midlands, where performance has greatly improved over recent weeks.”
But they added that peaks in demand are expected to continue, and that local hospital trusts and clinical commissioning groups have been tasked with producing plans to manage these and ensure “robust” systems are in place ahead of time for next winter.
Nationally, NHS England is conducting a wider review into the problems at A&E.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is due to respond to the troubles facing emergency units in a speech on Thursday.