Concern raised over lack of A&E services

Staff at Northumbria Healthcare's new specialist emergency care hospital near Cramlington.
Staff at Northumbria Healthcare's new specialist emergency care hospital near Cramlington.

A concerned member of the North East Ambulance Service has launched a petition calling for the provision of more local accident and emergency (A&E) services across the region.

Martin Jackson, from Amble, believes that people’s lives are being put at risk and has criticised the decision to open the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, instead of spreading cover around the area.

Under the new model of care, all serious emergencies and illnesses are treated at the new facility in Cramlington, which cost £90million.

There are 24-hour walk-in services in North Tyneside, Wansbeck and Hexham general hospitals for urgent care – such as minor fractures or broken bones, wound infections and cuts – while minor injury units in Alnwick, Berwick, Haltwhistle and Blyth treat non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses.

Mr Jackson, an emergency care assistant, has hit out at the system. He is critical of the length of time it takes to transport patients to the new facility when facing a potential life-and-death scenarios, especially if they are living in the north of the county.

He said: “This is people’s lives we are dealing with and people will die because of nonsense decisions that have been taken. In one instance, we had a call for an infant that was in Berwick. We had to go from Cramlington to Berwick and back again, and pass hospitals like Berwick and Alnwick.

“The money should have been spread around to have locally-based A&Es, instead of relying on this hospital.

“No one can be in an ambulance for an hour, for example, and receive the best treatment.”

The online petition is being hosted on 38degrees and has so far been signed by more than 1,350 people. Mr Jackson, 51, has also written to a number of MPs about the issue.

Within the petition, he states: ‘Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director for England, has opened a super hospital in Northumberland. It is his vision of the future for all hospitals in the UK.

“I would like to invite Bruce back to the North East to see first-hand the progress.

‘At least three local A&E units, from North Tyneside to Hexham, have now changed into 24/7 urgent care centres.

‘This super hub which you have created may work for parcels or pizza delivery, but we are talking here about peoples’ lives’.

Dr Chris Biggin, clinical director of emergency care at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are aware of Mr Jackson’s petition and are keen to understand any concerns that he may have.

“Our new model of emergency care is working extremely well and has exceeded our expectations in terms of improving outcomes for the most seriously ill or injured patients across Northumberland and North Tyneside.

“Having access to state-of-the-art diagnostics 24/7 and the right consultant specialists on hand every single day, including weekends, means patients who are very sick are now being assessed, diagnosed and treated in a matter of hours and getting home much sooner. This is excellent news for patients and we have received very positive feedback to date.

“Our urgent care centres at Hexham, North Tyneside and Wansbeck general hospitals continue to provide urgent care 24/7 for walk-in patients who have less serious conditions and with winter fast approaching we would urge people to use services appropriately.”

Mr Jackson, who has been in the ambulance service for eight years, including 18 months with the North East Ambulance Service, was recently suspended, prior to starting the petition.

A spokeswoman for the North East Ambulance Service said: “This petition does not represent the views of the service. Mr Jackson has been suspended by the trust on an unrelated matter.”

To view the petition, visit tinyurl.com/qdoz9q5