A&E’s Crisis of Leadership



By Haseeb Arif

MPs have slammed A&E crisis plans, aimed at relieving the immense pressure placed on these departments at times of high risk. These findings, made by a cross party commission of MPs have come amid claims that A&E departments throughout the country are missing the 4 hours waiting times. Their probe came as a result of “confusing and incomplete” information being supplied to them by NHS England regarding the current situation of A&E departments throughout the country. MPs say that they were “shocked” at the lack of accountability present at every level within the NHS administration.

The Health Select Committee questioned whether A&E departments were ready to deal with the inevitable spike in numbers of patients in the cold season. Their evidence showed that only 17% of hospitals had the recommended level of consultant cover, and difficulties with discharging patients and lack of beds disrupted the flow of patients through the system. This latest crisis has come after a report showed that the four-hour waiting programme instilled by the NHS had been missed between January to March, the first time such a breach has happened for 9 years, by 94 out of 148 providers, with 300,000 patients waiting longer than they should have, a shocking 39% increase on the previous year.

The attention placed on the NHS by the coalition is ever increasing, however the results show otherwise. It is no longer a question of whether enough is being done, but if the correct things are being done. There is no doubt of the intentions of all across the spectrum of British politics regarding the NHS, but whether they are prepared to do what it takes to enact the necessary changes in our ailing health service is the matter at hand.

There is a plain opportunity for the coalition government to fill this need. They have now the chance to be the decisive leaders, to bring in the changes that are required to lead the NHS out of stormy waters. If the coalition fails to treat the NHS as a unique entity, with pragmatic aims, the future does indeed look bleak. They need to be committed to the NHS, outlining ways in which it can better function as a healthcare provider, not a money making machine. The role of the NHS has been misconstrued by many, with the development of profit making agendas having a harmful impact on the efficiency of healthcare. The confusion surrounding the role of the NHS very quickly needs to be put to rest before any effective steps can be implemented.

The chair of the health select committee Stephen Dorrell criticised the leadership of the NHS, claiming “The system is flying blind, without adequate information about the nature of the demand being placed on it”. He went on to outline that all parts of the NHS; social care, GPs and ambulance trusts all needed to have a plan in place by the end of September to be ready for the winter peak.

This has called into repute the ability of the current NHS leadership to do just that – lead. There is a clear ambiguity in the aims of the health service and the steps that will be taken to achieve them, an uncertainty that has had severe impacts on patient welfare, as outlined in the Keogh report, which was released 2 weeks ago.

The coalition government must act upon the findings of the committee’s report, in order to ensure the welfare of patients is not compromised during the cold season.

Clear and responsible leadership is requisite for the success of any organisation. The recent crises that have embroiled the NHS have outlined that the only thing that is clear regarding the leadership of the NHS is the inability to execute efficient and effective service across the board.

The Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy supports this call lending her voice to the choir stating that NHS England has more than enough evidence to act upon and that “The system is under increasing pressure and is coming apart at the seams. The time to act is now.”

The need of strong, uninhibited leadership within the NHS has never been more evident. With the waves of scandal ever crashing against the hull of this institution, and the threat of wreckage ever rising, dynamic and pragmatic leadership with clear vision is required for our health service to navigate this tumultuous time, to emulate the greatness it has fallen so embarrassingly short of in recent times.

Haseeb Arif is currently studying Biomedical sciences. He aims to work to achieve a fairer and stronger society. He doesn’t like cricket – He loves it.

Image from telegraph.co.uk


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