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Prime Minister announces £500 million to relieve pressures on A&E

Further to the Government's stated policy of treating patients and service users with respect, dignity and compassion Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that A&E departments will benefit from an additional £500 million over the next two years to ensure they are fully prepared for winter.

With over one million more people visiting A&E compared to three years ago, last year’s harsh winter put exceptional pressure on urgent and emergency wards. The new funding will go to A&E departments identified as being under the most pressure and be targeted at ‘pinch points’ in local services.

The aim is for patients to be treated promptly, with fewer delays in A&E, and for other patients to get the care, prescriptions or advice they need without going to A&E.

Local initiatives

Hospitals have put forward proposals aimed at improving how their services work. These include improvements to both A&E and to other services away from A&E so there are less unnecessary visits or longer stays in urgent and emergency wards.

Some of the local initiatives could include:

  • minimising A&E attendances and hospital admissions from care homes by appointing hospital specialists in charge of joining up services for the elderly;
  • seven-day social work, increased hours at walk-in centres, increased intermediate care beds and extension to pharmacy services to ease pressures on A&E departments;
  • consultant reviews of all ambulance arrivals in A&E so that a senior level decision is taken on what care is needed at the earliest opportunity.

Preparing for winter

Currently, A&E departments are said to be performing at their usual level for the summer period with over 95 per cent of patients seen within 4 hours since the end of April. It is hoped that providing the additional funding at this stage will ensure the NHS is better prepared for the busier winter period.

Announcing the extra funding Prime Minister David Cameron said: "With over a million more people visiting A&E in the last three years, services and staff can find themselves under pressure during the busier winter period.

"While A&E departments are performing well this summer and at a level we would expect for this time of year, I want the NHS to take action now to prepare for the coming winter. By acting now, we can ensure doctors, nurses and NHS staff have the support they need and patients are not left facing excessive waits for treatment."

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "This £500 million will help A&E departments to prepare for winter and give patients confidence that they can quickly access safe and reliable emergency care.

"We will do whatever it takes to make sure the best A&E care is there for every patient when they need it, and we’re backing our hard-working NHS staff with the resources they need to deliver this."

The Department of Health and NHS England are also working to relieve pressure on A&E services in the longer term. A £3.8 billion fund has been agreed which will focus on joining up services, so that health and care services work more closely together, keeping people healthier and treating them closer to home.