Seeing the pressures of our services

Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital'Picture by Jane Coltman
Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital'Picture by Jane Coltman

Few would contest the assertion that the men and women who work in our emergency services are the pride of Britain.

The wonderful work done by our police officers, firefighters, paramedics, ambulance crews, doctors and nurses almost defies the praise it undoubtedly deserves.

Time after time they put the safety, health and wellbeing of others before any consideration for themselves, and there cannot be one of us who at some point has not benefited from their intervention.

Increasingly, however, we learn that the stresses and strains on our emergency teams have become almost intolerable. Our frontline services are being overwhelmed and stretched almost to the limit by the demands being put upon them.

In the winter we heard about hospitals operating under the most acute workloads, exacerbated by increasing numbers of patients seeking treatment. We heard of people having to wait on trolleys to be seen by doctors because of the extreme pressures. We heard of operations being delayed because of a shortage of beds, and of wards having to close because of illness, such as novovirus.

All this was despite the most valiant and heroic efforts of the medical teams to look after patients.

We must also be aware that police forces across the country are having to contend with massive funding reductions, which have impacted severely on the numbers of officers and community support staff who keep our streets safe.

Since the Conservative Government came to power policing numbers have been slashed by 20,000 officers. In the Northumbria Force the budget has been cut by £135million over eight years.

Similarly, the fire service has had reduced budgets, which have led to smaller stations, particularly in rural areas, closing and resources centralised around larger stations, while ambulance and paramedic crews also work in very challenging situations.

As Wansbeck MP, as well as being a senior member of the Shadow Cabinet, I need to be fully conversant with the pressures our emergency services are working under so that I can contribute not just in the House of Commons debates, but also be aware of what is happening on the ground in my constituency.

I believe the best way for me to do that is to spend time seeing the teams at work, which is why I have accepted an invitation to join an evening shift of doctors and nurses in the A&E department at Cramlington. It is one thing to read reports of the pressures and challenges doctors and nurses face, I have no doubt it is going to be entirely different to see it first-hand, and I am grateful to Northumbria Healthcare Trust for giving me the opportunity.

I have had a meeting with the senior officers responsible for policing in Bedlington, Ashington and Morpeth, which proved invaluable for myself and my team who deal with a huge number of issues affecting Wansbeck residents.

Crime and anti-social behaviour feature prominently in issues raised with us so it was useful to discuss residents’ concerns with officers, as well as hear how they tackle frontline policing.

Hopefully, I will also get the chance to go out with police teams as they patrol the streets of Wansbeck to experience some of the challenges they face, and I would similarly like to spend time with our fire, ambulance and paramedic crews.

I believe this will be invaluable in furthering my understanding of the marvellous work they do here, as well as seeing for myself how they cope with the pressures they have to work under.

Britain can be proud of our emergency services being among the best in the world and we must fully support them to make sure that in the years ahead they continue to maintain the reputations they have rightly earned.