Assembly ‘Letting Nurses Down’ Over Emergency Care

Nurses have criticised delays over the publication of a strategy to reform emergency services in Wales. The Delivering Emergency Care Strategy (Decs) has yet to be published by the Welsh Assembly Government, some six months after a public consultation ended.

It is thought the final document, which will outline what services will be available to patients, will not be published until June at the earliest. This is despite the ongoing problems caused by patients swamping accident and emergency departments and dialling 999 for minor complaints.

In the six months since the end of the consultation NHS Direct has merged with the Welsh Ambulance Service – one of the proposals put forward in Decs.

The Royal College of Nursing in Wales today says the Welsh Assembly Government must invest in improving access to emergency care across Wales. Tina Donnelly, director of RCN Wales, said: “It is very regrettable that the Welsh Assembly Government does not take the pressures of the emergency services in Wales seriously.

“Workloads for nurses continue to escalate and the stress and demand has reached dangerous levels. Our nurses working in emergency care feel let down, but more importantly, the patients deserve better. We are calling for the new Welsh Assembly Government to publish the emergency care strategy immediately following election.”

The Decs strategy, which went out for public consultation in July 2006, included radical proposals to vastly reduce the number of people who use A&E. Under the plans, people would be urged to call NHS Direct Wales for non-emergency help instead of dialling 999 for an ambulance.

And the strategy also contained proposals to set up urgent treatment centres, staffed by GPs and nurses, which would treat non-emergency injuries and illnesses. These centres would be attached to every major hospital and many community hospitals throughout Wales.

Nurses and paramedics would also be given extended roles to ensure patients get the right treatment in the right place – even in their homes. The proposals were drawn up after a series of crises in emergency care, including numerous episodes of ambulances queuing outside A&E departments.

And they came after RCN Wales presented Health Minister Dr Brian Gibbons with a paper containing 28 recommendations for emergency care drawn up by nurses. These contained an emphasis on nursing empowerment as a way to provide strategic solutions to improving emergency care services across Wales.