The Health Select Committee is due to publish a report this week which is expected to highlight the lack of senior staff in A&E departments and to conclude that this is a factor putting patient safety at risk. The report particularly highlighted the lack of available consultants but also drew attention to the difficulties in recruiting, training and retaining A&E staff given hours and working conditions.

In addition, the GMC has separately named 14 trusts that have shortages of staff in A&E wards. Whilst five of these trusts have also been identified as problematic by the Keogh review (including in emergency care) and are now going to be subject to ‘special measures’, the GMC report identifies nine further trusts with serious problems within their A&E teams.

Both investigations are focused on the need to improve conditions and recruit and retain more staff but it is clear that significant investment is needed. The lack of success of the new 111 call system was also highlighted.

Philippa Luscombe, partner in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons, said: “The findings of these reports are not unexpected but are worrying. In the last few years we have seen increasing problems with A&E care, particularly in the evening and weekends – ranging from patients being sent home when suffering from conditions ultimately proving to be fatal and elderly patients not being monitored and suffering falls/significant deterioration, to patients with time critical conditions being left waiting until their window of opportunity for successful treatment has passed. We feel that the trusts highlighted by the Keogh review will now introduce improvements but it is less certain what will happen with the nine other trusts where the GMC has highlighted concerns about A&E care and the more widespread issues identified by the Health Select Committee.”