Steve Beasant

Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Great Grimsby and Councillor for the East Marsh Learn more

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by Steve Beasant on 25 December, 2009

A new row as broken out over government fiddled statistics this time it relates to the NHS, and the Tories are accusing hospitals of fiddling a four-hour wait A&E target by using other wards as dumping grounds. 

Both the Tories and Labour are being hypocritical to defend their records on this issue. We only need to look back to when the Tories were in power they decimated the NHS; and their record on statistics was not much improved. Remember the ‘fiddled’ unemployment statistics, and this government’s record on statistics is even worse – take their record with information on knife crime – it’s a farce. 

Now back to this latest argument, data from 114 NHS trusts in England shows many patients faced long waits in assessment units which did not count towards the waiting time.  

Over a fifth of units reported keeping patients longer than the recommended 24 hours with the average wait being 17.  

The Conservatives asked hospitals to provide data on their use of these wards under the Freedom of Information Act.  

They units effectively act as a half-way house between A&E and hospital to allow patients to continue to be monitored before a decision is taken to continue treating them or discharge them.  

Many are mixed-sex and do not have proper beds, leaving patients to rest on trolleys. 

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “Labour complacently claim that they have abolished long waits for patients being admitted to hospitals, but these figures show that all they have really done is fiddle the figures.  

“It is unacceptable and has to change.”  

The longest recorded wait at an assessment unit was 26 days at Heatherwood and Wrexham Park Hospital, in Berkshire.

Critics say hospitals are using the units to circumvent the government’s target, set in 2004, of no patient being left in accident and emergency for more than four hours before being sent home or to a ward. 

Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb said: “This is more evidence of hospitals playing the system. Far from improving patient care, it is making it worse.” 

In Norman Lamb’s constituency in Norfolk, Hospital bosses have rejected suggestions they are fiddling waiting time figures in order to meet government targets.

A spokesman for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital said: “Many patients will come into hospital feeling very unwell and needing extensive tests, plus a period of assessment before they can either be stabilised and sent home or admitted for surgery or on-going care.

“Rushing the decision making process is not safe for patients and many people will need observation for longer than four hours.

“In these circumstances, patients will be admitted to our Emergency Assessment Unit which is a ward with the same layout as our other wards and separate to A&E.”

Norman Lamb said: “There has been a lot of focus on reaching targets and therefore a lot of trusts are scared if they are heading towards this so they treat patients in different units.

“I have not heard any cases where this is happening here though.” 

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