Waiting times are getting longer at NHS accident and emergency departments. But what makes the situation even more acute at Milton Keynes Hospital is that the A&E has long outgrown the facility.
Annually, approximately 70,000 people attend A&E – treating 53,000 more patients than it was designed to cope with when it was first built.
As Milton Keynes’ population continues to expand the problem will only get worse with the hospital becoming busier than ever.
The physical environment in A&E has been on the Trust Risk Register since May last year with the Emergency Care Intensive Support Team (ECIST) stating in its report that the A&E was the worst department in terms of environment they had seen.
The local NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, is fully aware of the urgent need to rebuild the Accident & Emergency unit with proposals to redevelop A&E facilities to incorporate the Urgent Care Centre and supporting outpatient services.
But, even though A&E performance in terms of waiting time targets has dropped and the hospital is doing all it can, public dissatisfaction is only likely to increase if a longer-term solution cannot be found quickly.
That’s why the Citizen has joined forces with our two MPs Mark Lancaster and Iain Stewart, to mount this campaign for action NOW. Both will be working closely with the hospital to ensure all needs of residents are taken into consideration during the lobbying process.
They will each be meeting with the Secretary of State for Health to raise the profile of the issue, push for funding and raising the situation on the floor of the House of Commons.
Written questions will be submitted to the Minister for Health to apply direct pressure on the government, along with letters to the necessary agencies emphasising the great need for funding and improvements.
Mr Lancaster said: “This campaign is crucial in ensuring the residents of Milton Keynes have access to an accident and emergency department which is large enough to look after them properly.
“Doctors and nurses are doing a fantastic job at caring for patients in a facility which was designed to accommodate a third of the people it currently does. I am determined that, with Iain, and with the backing of the Citizen, we will raise this in Westminster and ensure we secure the £20 million from government to create a new A&E which will accommodate the ever rising population in our city.”
Mr Stewart added: “Our population in Milton Keynes is growing at a very fast rate. Since the 2011 census, our population has grown by a further 17per cent. In addition, we are living much longer than previous generations. It is therefore essential that our local health facilities are best placed to meet these changing demands.
“Our A&E was built in the 1980s to cope with an annual patient number of 20,000. It is estimated that 73,000 patients will use the facility this year. There is clearly a need for an expanded A&E and this is why Mark and I arepressing the case for one.”
Hospital chief executive Joe Harrison said: “Milton Keynes Hospital’s A&E was built in 1984, and was intended to care for 20,000 patients per year.
“Over the years, the number of patients using the service has grown and we expect to see more than three times that number this year, around 70,000 patients. Clearly we have made a series of extensions and improvements over the decades, most recently expanding into an adjacent area (the Maple Unit) only a few weeks ago.
“In addition, advances in medical technology mean that some patients (for example, those needing intensive trauma care or rapid unblocking of blood vessels) go directly to more specialist units.
“However, it is clear that we will need a long term solution that helps us better serve local people in Milton Keynes and the surrounding areas.”
The hospital’s A&E, built in the 1980s, was designed to cope with up to 20,000 patients. There have been a number of temporary patch-ups and extensions to cope with increasing demand over the years. This year the unit is expected to deal with 73,000 patients.
An Urgent Care Centre was opened on the site under the “Darzi” plans. Far from reducing demand, it has sparked a further 50,000 attendances to the hospital site.
There is now a disjointed urgent care pathway in MK which causes confusion as to where people should go for what aliment. This needs sorting out now and for the longer term in particular considering the growing population. A new A&E would improve this.
The physical environment in A&E has been on the Trust Risk Register since May 2012. A proposal, developed and agreed by all stakeholders in the system, recommends a single, integrated point of access that ensures those most serious cases who need resuscitation and the full A&E service get it and those less serious ailments, also get proper timely treatment without being pushed from pillar to post.
The Emergency Care Intensive Support Team (ECIST) reviewed our A&E late last year. It said in its report that the A&E is the worst department in terms of environment they had seen (they have visited almost all A&Es in the country). Their strong recommendation was that the board seek capital support for a “common front door”, as described above.
Our A&E performance in terms of waiting time targets has dropped of late. The hospital is doing all it can, but public dissatisfaction is only likely to increase if a longer-term solution cannot be found quickly.
Prior to the building of a hospital in Milton Keynes, and before the development of the city, all hospital services were provided by Stoke Mandeville and Northampton General Hospital. A satellite outpatients department at Bletchley supported the Stoke Mandeville service with Northampton and Stony Stratford providing some outpatient services.
Development of the new city started at the end of the 1960s, but by the middle of the 1970s there was still no local hospital. A campaign under the banner “Milton Keynes is Dying for a Hospital” started, which resulted in the commitment to build a hospital on the current site.
Shortage of resources made it apparent that the main hospital with acute services would not be built until the early 1980s, and so a “stop-gap” community hospital was built, which opened in 1979.
This consisted of four wards, including one for acute mental illness care, a rehabilitation department, a small X-ray department, and a few other supporting services. The community hospital was built adjacent and linked to the Eaglestone Health Centre, which was the first health care building on site in 1977-78.
Phase one of the hospital was the first major acute health care development in Milton Keynes, and was built to the eastern side of the already existing community hospital, which the new hospital effectively absorbed.
The acute services provision included: Four operating theatres ; An Accident & Emergency Department; Maternity Services; General and speciality wards; Full diagnostic X-ray facilities.
The hospital was officially opened in September 1984 by HRH the Duchess of Kent.