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A&E Waiting Times: East Lancashire

Volume 748: debated on Tuesday 23 April 2024

11. What steps her Department is taking to improve accident and emergency waiting times in east Lancashire. (902437)

Just over a year ago, we set out a plan to improve urgent and emergency care. The plan is working. At East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, 78% of A&E patients in March were seen within four hours. That is 4.5 percentage points better than last year—the biggest year-on-year improvement outside the pandemic since 2010. We know that there is more to do; that is why we are working with the NHS on year 2 of the urgent and emergency care recovery plan.

I am grateful to the Minister for that response, and grateful to her for agreeing to meet me and other local MPs to discuss the emergency care situation in east Lancashire. Could I ask her to go one step further? Perhaps she and even the Secretary of State could visit Burnley General Teaching Hospital in my constituency, meet the trust, and see what more we can do there, partly to reverse the disastrous decision of the last Labour Government to close the A&E there?

I commend my hon. Friend and other east Lancashire colleagues for their campaigning on this matter. I look forward to the meeting we are going to have to discuss the performance of his local A&E, and I thank him very much for the invitation to visit.

I share an integrated care board with the hon. Member for Burnley (Antony Higginbotham) in Lancashire and South Cumbria. Does the Minister agree that one reason why there are such problems with A&E waiting times is the congestion in our hospitals overall, because of the number of people who are healthy and fit to leave hospital, but cannot have a health and care plan when they return home? Some 24% of all beds in the Morecambe Bay hospitals are occupied by people who are fit to leave, but have no care package. What plan does the Minister have to address the social care crisis in Cumbria? That will include increasing the amount of affordable housing, so that people can afford to live in the area; paying carers more; and having more intelligent visa rules.

The hon. Gentleman makes the point that the performance of A&E depends on the flow of patients through hospital and our ability to discharge them. That is why, as part of our work on urgent and emergency care, we have invested in supporting hospitals to discharge patients, and have been supporting social care. We have seen an increased number of discharges across the country over the last year, which has enabled hospitals to treat more people and supported the improved performance in A&E that I mentioned. We continue to work on that, and of course we are supporting social care with up to £8.6 extra billion funding over two years.