The Friday before last, after a packed day of local engagements, I spent the evening in Airedale’s Accident and Emergency Department. Thankfully neither I nor a loved one needed medical attention – I had arranged to spend time shadowing the department’s staff to get a better idea of the challenges they face.
Regular readers of this column will recall that last year I spent a shift out with the police, did the morning bin collection in Nelson, joined an ambulance crew for 12 hours and went out with Pendle Council’s environmental crime team sifting through fly tipping. These all gave me a better insight to the challenges faced by public sector workers, so I can more effectively represent their views and concerns at Westminster.
Last year I also did a shift at Burnley General Hospital’s Urgent Care Centre, seeing first-hand the vital work done by doctors, nurses and staff. But on Friday night I got an even better insight into where the most acute pressure on our NHS is being felt – A&E.
Since Burnley General Hospital’s A&E closed in 2007, more Colne and West Craven residents have chosen to use services at Airedale Hospital. To cater for this a new state-of-the-art £6.3 million A&E Department, double the size of the old one, opened in 2014, and last year a new £7 million 48-bed acute assessment unit, opened providing 24/7 support for the A&E Department.
Bouts of ill health mean that I have used Airedale’s A&E as a patient, but to get a real understanding of the challenges they face, especially during winter, I was pleased they could have me in the department to observe on a Friday night. Whilst for patient confidentiality reasons I can’t discuss specifics, I was able to see the different pressures caused by people with both physical and mental health conditions. You also could see the impact of drink and drugs, and an aging population with increasingly complex long-term medical conditions.
I’d like to thank Dr Paul Jennings for allowing me to shadow him. Once again, I was humbled by the hard work and professionalism of all those who work in our NHS. The NHS has saved my life and I will continue to do all I can to champion our local health services in Westminster.