Tracy Brabin’s Comments on Shadowing Paramedics

Tracy Brabin MP said:

“Since becoming your MP, I have heard the message loud and clear, people in Batley and Spen are concerned about the NHS. When I’m out and about or holding a surgery you tell me you’re worried about the downgrade of Dewsbury hospital and you’re concerned about what the £26m budget cuts facing the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust this year will mean for patient safety. 

The very first time I spoke in the House of Commons I questioned Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt about downgrade of Dewsbury Hospital and will use my upcoming meeting with him to put your concerns to him directly.

With the challenges facing the NHS in mind, I wanted to see what it was like on the frontline, after visiting the Bronte Birthing Centre I jumped at the chance to spend Sunday with a Yorkshire Ambulance Service paramedic crew in their ambulance.

I was shown around the state of the art facility in Manor Mill, Beeston by Dr David Macklin, YAS Executive Director of Operations and had the opportunity to discuss my constituents concerns about a build-up of ambulances waiting to hand over patients at Pinderfields and the downgrade of Dewsbury Hospital.

David explained the new triage system for 999 calls, 5-10% of all calls need an immediate ambulance, instead of asking the address first, the first question will now be ‘is the patient breathing’, then ‘ is the patient unconscious’ then ‘is the person breathing noisily..’ Such questions let the handler divert the best vehicle and person to the event so that the patient gets the service that meets their needs, directed to the best place for their emergency.

During my shift I was placed in the capable hands of Jamie and Lauren who had already dealt with two calls and were on a break, picking me up on the way. Jamie was charming and experienced. A fully trained Paramedic and GMB rep, he talked me through the demands of the job.  Lauren a bright and engaging Emergency Care Assistant who was behind the wheel and I can confirm she was a brilliant driver even under pressure.

I want to share a few examples of what I witnessed with you.

Our first call was to a gentleman who was struggling after an operation on his kidney stones. With complex health problems his partner was used to the trip to A&E reflecting that although their regular waiting time at St James is invariably under four hours, they recently spent 36 hours in a surgical assessment unit before a bed on a ward was found for them. This is a process called Reverse Boarding. Patients get through A&E in under 4 hours – to comply with national targets – but with the pressure on bed places off the scale, often find themselves left waiting in side rooms or assessment wards.

As a concerned NHS staff member told to me recently ‘where did we get to in the NHS, that reverse boarding was acceptable?’

Next was a serious Road Traffic Accident where a young man on a motor bike had crashed into the side of a car leaving him not breathing and in a critical condition. The Hazardous Area Response Team were nearby and started work on the young man minutes before we arrived. In such serious incidents these minutes are crucial and he was very lucky they were nearby.

The young man was stabilized then lifted into our ambulance to be taken to A&E where he was cared for by an experienced and focused Accident and Emergency team. There is no doubt the teamwork, procedural discipline and medical expertise saved his life.

The last call out of the day was a young pregnant woman who seemingly had suffered a TIA, a mini stroke, whilst doing the washing up. With pre-eclampsia a serious danger for pregnant woman, Jamie made the sensible decision to take her to A&E for further tests.

From clock-on to clock-off I couldn’t fault the dedication and commitment of the team as we went from call to call throughout the eight hours I was with them.

It was a privilege to spend time with such hard working, dedicated professionals, but I can’t help but feel the Government is making an already tremendously difficult job, even harder.  The NHS is struggling financially across the board, take Yorkshire Ambulance Service, the Government’s offer of less money for 2016/17 rather than more when demand has increased by 7% is nothing more than insulting.  When two nurses and four health professionals can be left to look after a ward of 32 patients, it must be almost impossible to discharge patients as fast as is needed for A&E to hit its targets without having to resort to Reverse Boarding.

I was also made aware that there is a cost to the NHS when ambulances are left waiting to hand over patients at A&E which is an unnecessary expense and a drain on already over-stretched budgets.

The only way to stop this happening is to increase bed numbers to ease the pressure on A&E and nurses on the wards having to monitor poorly patients in side rooms without facilities. Cutting the 350 beds at Dewsbury down by 250 (a net loss of 170 beds when an extra 80 at Pinderfields is taken into consideration) seems counter intuitive when social care is in disarray. Lack of beds holds back the swift discharge of patients ready to be looked after in the community and forces ambulances to stack up, a sight we’re seeing increasingly at A&Es around the country. 

With this in mind I’d encourage everyone who cares about our NHS to join me on the Labour Party stall we’re running in Batley from 10am to 1pm where we can discuss this further.”