President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Katherine Henderson said: “Before this pandemic the lives of patients were put at risk due to overcrowding in Emergency Departments.
“If we go back to how things used to be it will never be more evident that crowding kills. Emergency Departments could become hotbeds of coronavirus transmission without proper measures to enforce social distancing; to do that we will need to physically redesign and rebuild many departments.”
COVID-19: Resetting Emergency Care also calls for MPs to ensure that the right service is available at the right time for the needs of all patients.
“We have been worried that many patients may have unwittingly put themselves in danger by staying away from Emergency Departments for fear of contracting the virus. Our departments are safe and open for business; seriously ill or injured patients should come to get help.
“Those with minor problems or ongoing health issues should be – and have been – seeking help from primary care or NHS 111 and national equivalents. These services still need further expansion and the government must look to how it enables that.
“But we are gradually seeing attendances rise again at A&Es, and most of these patients will need to be there. These means we urgently need more space in which to treat them and keep them apart from each other.
“Considering at the height of winter last year many departments had run out of chairs for patients, space is at a premium and expanding departments will be no easy task.
“As MPs begin to consider the steps to return us to normality and prevent further spread, we ask them to consider finding ways to fund the expansion of A&Es to prevent further loss of life to COVID-19.”
In a briefing issued to all MPs and Lords today as part of its campaign to Reset Emergency Care, RCEM also recommends the continued expansion of the Emergency Medicine workforce, extra bed capacity, expansion of Same Day Emergency Care, and an adequate long-term supply of PPE and testing.
Dr Henderson said: “We are at the beginning of a long period of transformation for the NHS. Policymakers must act quickly and follow our recommendations to ensure that COVID-19 – and similar diseases – can be managed safely alongside regular Emergency Care. The failure to do so will risk the lives of more patients and staff.”
Notes to Editors
RCEM’s briefing to MPs can be found here.
The five fundamental aims outlined in ‘COVID-19: Resetting Emergency Department Care’ are:
There are six key areas to ensure safety:
Each key area has several recommendations which can be read in full in the position statement