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Royal College responds to NHS England’s updated Delivery Plan for the Recovery of Urgent and Emergency Care services.

16 May 2024

A new focus on addressing the extreme waits experienced by patients visiting Emergency Departments in England has been welcomed by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

The new commitment to reduce 12-hour A&E waits, back by financial incentives, is one of the new targets contained in NHS England’s updated Urgent and Emergency Care Recovery Plan  which has been published today (16 May 2024).

It details the aims of the second year of NHSE’s two-year recovery plan, originally published in January 2023.

Today’s update, which takes the form of a letter which links to a series of annexes featuring ‘best practice case studies’ and a ‘Progress update and next steps’ document, has been sent to all Integrated Care Boards and NHS Trusts in England from NHSE National Director of Urgent and Emergency Care Sarah Marsh CBE and National Clinical Director for UEC Dr Julian Redhead.

It sets out the updated priorities for UCE for 2024/25 and includes plans to:

  • Financially incentivise 12-hour Emergency Department performance
  • Increase funding for a wider roll out of ‘virtual wards’
  • Provide seven-day a week Same Day Emergency Care and Acute Frailty Units for all major (Type 1) Emergency Departments
  • Maintain and average of 99,500 hospital beds throughout the year.

The plan is intended to build on the NHS planning guidance for 2024/25 issued in April which saw the target – that all patients attending A&E should be treated, discharged, or admitted within four hours – raised from 76% to 78%.

This new figure is a long way below the 95% target detailed in the NHS Constitution and which was last met in 2013.

Reacting to the latest iteration of the Recovery Plan, RCEM President, Dr Adrian Boyle said: “Clearly the continued emphasis on improving UEC is welcome, and we are glad to see a focus on addressing long A&E waits. They are dehumanising, degrading and dangerous.

“Last month (April 2024) more than one in 10 people waited more than 12 hours in EDs in England a situation which leads to overcrowding and so called ‘corridor care’. An unacceptable situation starkly evidenced by last night’s BBC Newsnight investigation.

“Reducing the time people spend in our EDs – especially for those patients who experience extreme waits because there are no in-patient beds for them – has to be the priority.

“Everyone wants that. We hope this updated plan achieves its aims and we will start to see the improvements so desperately wanted by clinicians and patients alike.”

RCEM’s own assessment of the first year of the UEC Recovery Plan can be found here

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