Huge gaps in non-emergency out-of-hours care and the misuse of emergency services are pushing Huddersfield and Calderdale’s A&Es to breaking point.

That’s the opinion of health policy expert Prof Peter Bradshaw as the NHS revealed its worst figures for waiting times since the service began in 1948.

Prof Bradshaw, emeritus professor at Huddersfield University, says the Government’s policy of demanding more of the NHS – without increasing its funding – is putting tremendous pressure across the whole service.

“In the Government’s autumn spending statement the NHS was supposed to get a considerable uplift but that has been disguised in efficiency savings,” he said. “That means getting more work out of the same amount of money. They have looked for a private solution and it hasn’t worked.

“Basically, it’s underfunding.”

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Because of underfunding there is a huge gap in non-emergency care which means greater numbers are presenting at emergency departments.

Prof Bradshaw says shortfalls in everything from GP practices to planned hospital clinics and home care means that conditions go undiagnosed until they become emergencies.

Prof Peter Bradshaw
Prof Peter Bradshaw

And the problem is particularly acute outside GP surgery hours.

Prof Bradshaw said: “GPs have generally come out in favour of a five day week but people don’t choose to become ill between 9am and 5pm.

“It’s reasonable to assume that at other times it’s a skeletal arrangement.”

He added: “At the moment the big gap to this is care closer to home; domiciliary services are not matching demand.”

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Misuse of emergency care is also putting ‘significant’ pressure on A&E departments – but it isn’t deliberate misuse, Prof Bradshaw says.

And the professor is highly critical of NHS 111 which is supposed to direct patients to an appropriate service.

Prof Bradshaw said: “NHS 111 is about as useful as an ejector seat on a submarine!

“All they have is algorithms and they usually tell people to go hospital or the doctor’s.

“It’s ‘mal-use’ rather than misuse because people don’t know any different.”