Cameron releases £500m to relieve A&E units

AN emergency bail-out of £500m is being released to relieve pressure on crisis-hit A&E units.

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The payments, announced today by Prime Minister David Cameron, will be spread over the next two years to prepare services for winter and will include £15m for the under-fire 111 helpline.

The move comes amid growing concerns over pressures on emergency services. More than one million more people go to A&E than three years ago but cuts to social care, complaints about seeing GPs and failures with the 111 telephone service have also been blamed for adding to problems.

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Mr Cameron said: “While A&E departments are performing well this summer and at a level we would expect for this time of year, I want the NHS to take action now to prepare for the coming winter.

“The additional funding will go to hospitals where the pressure will be greatest, with a focus on practical measures that relieve pinch points in local services.

“By acting now, we can ensure doctors, nurses and NHS staff have the support they need and patients are not left facing excessive waits for treatment.”

NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar said the cash should be used to divert patients from hospitals with health services working together to get the best value out of the funding.

Shadow Health Minister Jamie Reed said: “David Cameron’s A&E crisis is a symptom of wider problems in the NHS and care system, which this announcement will not address.

“He’s spent the last three years taking £3bn from patient care to spend on a pointless re-organisation of the NHS. At the same time, £1.8bn has been cut from council budgets for older people’s care. This is now backing up through England’s A&E units.”