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£1.6m handout in bid to prevent A&E crisis in Southampton
HEALTH chiefs in Southampton have been handed £1.6m of emergency cash to prevent an A&E crisis – just weeks after ministers insisted that they didn’t need it.
The money has been paid out to GPs to devise schemes to “minimise A&E attendance and hospital admissions” during the highly-pressured winter months.
They will also be expected to work with hospitals to treat more patients at weekends and tackle so-called ‘bed-blocking’ – when patients stay on wards unnecessarily.
There was anger, back in September, when the city missed out on a share of £235m handed to 53 other hospitals, to ease pressures in casualty departments.
On that occasion, the DH described the decision as a compliment, because cash was going “to the areas that need it most”.
Mr Denham said: “No one looks a gift horse in the mouth, so I’m glad that Southampton has now got the money.
“But I can’t understand why they were so disorganised that we weren’t given the money earlier when, unfortunately, we are one of the worst performers on A&E in the country.
“It’s a shambles and it’s very hard to explain to expect people working in the health service to make the best use of every penny when the money arrives so late in the day.”
Ministers have now found an extra £150m, which has been allocated to GP-led clinical commission groups (CCGs), which ‘buy’ treatments and services.
Southampton receives £1.61m and the Isle of Wight £631,000, but Fareham and West Hampshire miss out.
In a letter to CCGs, outgoing NHS chief executive David Nicholson wrote that he now believed they too would “benefit from additional resources”.
The funding was announced as Labour staged a Westminster ‘summit’ on the issue, warning that 2013 was “the worst year in a decade in A&E”.
Health spokesman Andy Burnham highlighted longer ambulance queues outside A&E, longer waits to be treated and longer waits on hospital trolleys.
And he said: “The pressure that we have seen all year hasn’t abated. In recent weeks, it has been running at winter levels before winter has begun in earnest.
“There are genuine concerns now about the service’s ability to cope over what we expect will be a very difficult winter.”
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