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RCEM: Eliminate A&E crowding or risk turbocharging Covid-19

10 September 2020

Responding to today’s performance figures for Emergency Departments in England for August 2020, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Katherine Henderson said:

“Attendances at major A&Es continue to rise. More worryingly the number of patients requiring admission and waiting long periods on trollies also continues to rise.

“We are worried by the increasing number of patients waiting for over 12 hours, with the number approaching what it was in the same month last year. Crowding is clearly making an unwelcome return to our Emergency Departments.

“We must eliminate crowding now, otherwise we risk turbocharging the spread of coronavirus in the very places designed to treat it. Crowding has always been potentially deadly for patients, but now the risk is so much greater.

“We have issued guidance to our members about what they, their EDs and trusts or boards can and should do to help reduce the problem. But action is needed from government as we go into winter. As well as staff and beds, Trusts need clarity on what they need to focus on in terms of performance.

“While it is more important than ever that patients access the service most appropriate to their needs – and a rise in numbers calling 111 first is welcome – redirection can only do so much. Crowding cannot be eliminated unless we tackle exit block and flow issues, usually caused by a lack of staffed beds to admit patients to.

“We are grateful for funding to physically expand our EDs, but unless we match the increase in admissions with a similar number of beds to replace those that have been lost, we face an extremely difficult battle against the usual winter challenges with the still very real threat of Covid-19 on top.”

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