The full text of the letter:
Yesterday, an email was issued on your behalf with an urgent request for information so that you could write to council chief executives about delayed transfers of care to social care. The recipients were given just four hours to respond.
As I am sure you will appreciate, this suggests a failure on your part to anticipate the effect that the loss of social care capacity could have on the NHS this winter. You will know that I have repeatedly warned throughout this Parliament that severe cuts to social care could end up dragging down the NHS. This is exactly what is happening now. Increasing numbers of very frail, elderly people are ending up in A&E and then becoming trapped in hospital because the care they need to be discharged is not available. This comes on top of pressures arising from the fact that people are finding it harder to see a GP, and pressures within the NHS from the shortage of nurses and GPs.
As you will know, due to the financial pressures they face, councils will have limited ability to receive and enact new instructions from you so late in the day. If they are to play a constructive part in easing the pressures on hospitals - as we would all want them to do - it is vital that councils have the opportunity for a direct dialogue with you.
Similarly, other public services are now being adversely affected by the growing crisis in A&E and ambulance services. We are increasingly hearing of police and fire vehicles standing in for ambulances and ferrying people to hospital. This raises major patient and public safety concerns.
Given this, and also given the rapidly deteriorating position, I believe you should call an urgent summit, including representatives from local government, the police, fire and ambulance services, as well as emergency care and other NHS professionals, to assess the situation and put in place a coordinated plan to ensure patient safety and support the performance of A&E departments across England, and minimise any avoidable further major incidents being declared.
A number of NHS hospitals have today declared major incidents, including Croydon University Hospital, Walsall Manor Hospital and Peterborough City Hospital. Major incidents are only put in place where there is a serious threat to the health of the local community, or disruption to the hospital which is likely to cause harm to patients.
Data released by NHS England this morning shows that the pressure on A&E is not just confined to the hospitals declaring major incidents. A&E performance across England has deteriorated significantly in recent weeks. Patients are already being exposed to unacceptable levels of risk and the situation cannot be allowed to get any worse. Urgent action is needed to provide a coordinated response across Government from all public services.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Andy Burnham MP