PUBLIC-SECTOR union UNISON urged the government to build up spare capacity in the NHS yesterday to help stop a recurrence of the tragic death of 16-year-old Luke Gallimore.
Mr Gallimore died when an ambulance could not be found to take him to an intensive care ward at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire because of hold-ups at the hospital's A&E department.
UNISON head of health Karen Jennings noted that his death may not have been prevented, but she stressed that it was tragic that he had been unable to get the treatment that he had so urgently needed.
"Ambulances were being held up outside the hospital's A&E, unable to discharge their patients because of queues in the department.
"The marketisation of the NHS does not create an environment where there is scope for spare beds. We must acknowledge, as a matter of urgency, that spare capacity is acceptable and desirable.
"We need to have spare capacity in hospitals to allow patients to be admitted onto wards quickly, so that staff are able to care for the next patient," she said.
Ms Jennings added: "We should not put ambulance crews in a situation where they are tied up outside A&E looking after a patient instead of being free to deal with the next emergency.
"A&E is a stressful enough place for patients and the staff working there, without the additional strains of running around trying to find beds for seriously ill patients.
"The government likes to talk about choice, but how can you have choice if you don't have spare capacity?"
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