NHS providers in the West Midlands need to 'step up a bit more', says Health Secretary

The Health Secretary said NHS services in the West Midlands may need to "step up a bit more" in the face of sky high waiting times for care.

Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey MP spoke with the media at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey MP spoke with the media at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham

Thérèse Coffey said waiting times of longer than four hours at the region's A&E departments were "unacceptable".

She has vowed to tackle the issue – but suggested local NHS providers would need to pull their weight in order to ensure patients received the best possible care.

Dr Coffey, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, was speaking during a visit to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston, which is run by University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB).

She was asked by the Star what her plans were to address A&E waiting times, which increased by 10 per cent to 349 minutes at UHB in June, while across the whole region a quarter of all patients were not seen inside the target time of four hours.

Dr Coffey said: "I need to understand it more, but it may be that the local NHS needs to – dare I say it – step up a bit more.

"The role of the local NHS has been effectively developed. I want them to recognise there are issues and try and change it. I completely understand why people are frustrated."

Recalling how she was subjected to a lengthy wait in A&E in July only to be told to go home, Dr Coffey said: "I waited nearly nine hours myself and didn't get treated.

"Then I went to another hospital two miles away and got treated, after waiting an hour and a half that time.

"I do get it. It is bad and it is unacceptable."

Her comments came before it emerged that nurses across the Black Country and Staffordshire were considering going on strike over pay and conditions.

Health Secretary Therese Coffey speaking during this week's Conservative Party conference in Birmingham

Dr Coffey said the Government would be sticking to the four hour target in A&E, which she claimed had "largely served patients well".

"I'm also conscious that a lot of people are coming to A&E where this isn't the best place for them to get treatment," she added.

"I'm trying to understand the best way to fix that. There are a variety of pathways we are taking, including diverting some patients to pharmacists.

"I want to free up A&E time – and GP time – and in some cases people can get the appropriate care elsewhere. That's why we're increasing the number of 999 and 111 call handlers."

She has also pledged to publish GP practice performance data in a bid to clamp down on "unacceptable" delays for an appointment of more than two weeks.

"We are seeing a variety of ways that GPs are choosing to run their practices and at the moment patients are running blind," she said. "It's not about blaming GPs - it is about doing what we can to try and improve performance in the best interests of the patients."

Dr Coffey said a "more localised" NHS, with new integrated care systems working in partnerships with trusts, would help address her 'ABCD' priorities of ambulances, backlogs, care homes and doctors and dentists.

She said she was "not yet sure" that the NHS was spreading best practice "as it should be", and vowed to forge a partnership with the NHS to "get a grip" on key issues "rather than just delegating".

"I want to be here for patients," she said.

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