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£500m boost to ailing A&Es "papering over the cracks" say doctors

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 08/08/2013

Following a Commons warning over planning inadequacies, the Government has promised a £500m bailout for A&E departments.

The new funding, which is intended to control waiting times, will be introduced between now and 2015.

Missed targets

The Prime Minister said the bailout will help the most challenged A&E units and community services, following a series of missed targets over last winter.

However, sceptical doctors have accused the government of "papering over the cracks".

A&E system "confusing"

The announcement of the new funding comes in the wake of a Commons Health Select Committee report that current A&E measures are "confusing" and "contradictory".

Committee MPs found that 83% of hospitals did not offer consultants' cover according to guidelines, with throughput badly affected by unavailable beds and problems in discharging patients.

Members questioned whether the NHS, whose yearly budget in England is in excess of £100bn, will be fully prepared for the coming winter. They cited increasing numbers of patients and poor staffing levels as the main concerns.

A&E difficulties are said to have recently stabilised. However, between January and March 2013, excessive waiting times have been at their highest for almost a decade, with the service persistently missing its 4hr targets.

£15m for NHS111

The besieged NHS111 non-emergency telephone helpline will also receive a boost of £15m, following difficulties in service implementation and recent contract cancellations by suppliers.

The president of the College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Clifford Mann, expressed worries over how funding was to be distributed.

"It seems disingenuous and in many ways demoralising to those that managed to apparently perform satisfactorily, to understand or realise that they will benefit from this not at all," Dr Mann said.

He added that the new funding was only a "short-term fix" that fails to deal with the fundamental problem: "We have a shortage of doctors."

£20bn NHS cuts demanded

The British Medical Association (BMA) welcomed the fact that ministers were grasping the worries of patients and doctors. But its spokesperson added: "At a time when they are demanding cuts of £20bn across the NHS, this is nothing more than papering over the cracks.

"It is recognition that their austerity programme has hospitals facing ever increasing demands with diminishing resources."

The Opposition is similarly doubtful. "David Cameron's A&E crisis is a symptom of wider problems in the NHS and care system," said shadow health minister Jamie Reed, "which this announcement will not address."

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