Delays in emergency treatment pose “acute patient safety” risk

  • Date: 29 November 2021

NEARLY two thirds of A&Es across the UK had ambulances waiting to transfer patients every day, according to a snap survey conducted in November by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM).

The NHS mandates that ambulance handovers should be reliably completed within 15 minutes of arrival, but the RCEM found that 61 per cent of emergency departments in the survey were struggling to meet this standard every day.

The survey also found that 39 per cent of respondents stated that the longest stay they had in their emergency department was between 12 and 24 hours, while 14 per cent of respondents reported the longest stay was between 48 and 72 hours.

Just over 70 per cent of respondents reported that they were unable to maintain social distancing for patients in their emergency department in the past week.

Dr Katherine Henderson, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: "These results show the serious state that our urgent and emergency care system is in. None of us want to have patients held in ambulances, treated in corridors, or waiting very long times to go up to a ward bed. Sadly, these findings support our stark report on crowding and the AACE’s shocking report on ambulance handovers.

"We all need to work together to solve this acute patient safety problem. We believe enacting many of the suggestions we have made in RCEM CARES: The Next Phase will help. We want patients to feel confident that their Emergency Care system is there for them, but this winter is going to be a huge challenge unless we can get flow back into the system."

The RCEM survey covered the period of 8 November to 14 November 2021 and was sent to clinical leads in emergency departments across the UK. It received 70 responses.

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