Friday, December 01, 2006

Turbulent times for emergency care

By Adam Brimelow

BBC News, health correspondent

The Conservatives have demanded a fresh start in the process of reforming emergency services in England.

In a letter to the health service's chief executive, Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, has questioned the evidence for the proposed changes.

They would see services concentrated in big regional centres, while local A&E units are downgraded or closed.

He has identified 29 A&E units which are under threat.

Mr Lansley said the exercise was being driven by the need to save money. But the government said it will make services safer and more up-to-date.

Can these changes can ever be delivered without provoking local fury?

It is more than five years since Richard Taylor shook the political establishment by leading a revolt in Kidderminster over the closure of hospital services, including the A&E.

His election showed just how politically sensitive these decisions can be.

Now emergency services across England are being overhauled. Richard Taylor is worried that important lessons have been forgotten.

He said: "Everybody will travel for high-powered difficult surgery, difficult cancer-care, major trauma.

"But they want on their doorstep facilities to see a doctor who can cope with the bread and butter, run of the mill emergencies, which are usually medical things.

"The heart attacks, the strokes the pneumonias, which come out of the blue without any warning."