ACCIDENT and emergency departments are the bedrock of the National Health Service. We do not use them regularly but we always have the reassurance of knowing that they are there should the worst happen.
The growing crisis engulfing emergency care in the Lothians is deeply worrying for us all.
The strain on services at St John’s Hospital will be felt across the region. The biggest concerns will be in West Lothian, where patients face the disruption of being sent for care in the Capital and people will wonder where the cuts to their local services will end. Patients in the Capital will wonder what impact all those extra patients heading to the ERI will have on the already under-pressure staff there.
The growing staffing crisis facing the emergency care departments really leaves the health board with little choice.
It has to be better for patients to receive the best quality care available in a hospital further from their home than to be put in danger.
But that is only a short-term fix.
The number of patients turning up at A&E in both Edinburgh and Livingston is growing. As we all generally live longer than ever before, medics there are having to deal with more and more complex conditions.
The current situation cannot continue. The health board needs to find a way of recruiting more staff – and the quicker the better.
The light at the end of the tunnel is the success which the health board is starting to have in turning around the problems besetting paediatric care.
The worldwide search for staff is starting to pay dividends and patients can expect to start seeing the benefits.
Perhaps they can lure more medics from abroad to plug the gap in emergency care, but in the long run the NHS has to find a way of making emergency medicine more attractive to medics, or we will all continue to suffer.