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RCEM: Getting help from the appropriate service will save lives

14 May 2020

Responding to A&E performance figures for April that show a record low in attendances, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Katherine Henderson said:

“These figures show a dramatic drop in the number of patients accessing care through A&E departments: the worry is that that some people may not be getting the getting the medical care that they need.

“Patients must not put off getting help if they need it. EDs are here for the sickest patients and those whose lives are at risk. Emergency Departments, along with the rest of the health system, are working hard on making it safe for patients to get the help they need without picking up an infection. It is encouraging to see from the latest Emergency Department Syndromic Surveillance data that numbers of patients with cardiac (heart) diagnoses are back up to pre Covid levels.

“It is clear though that there has also been a drop off in attendances from patients with lower risk ailments who could be treated elsewhere. It is right that patients get the level of care appropriate to their need.

“However, in the last couple of weeks we have gradually seen an increase in attendances. It is really important that we do not return to crowded departments, especially at the moment as it risks increasing the number of infections again.

“We must find a way to maintain social distance in hospitals and the public have a part to play. Patients should only go to A&E if they are seriously sick or injured – and it is vital that they do if this is the case. Others who are concerned about an ongoing or minor health problem should seek help via primary care or through 111 or similar services.

“By getting help from the appropriate service they could be saving the lives of others.

“As a health service we need to reset how care is provided in emergency departments and prevent crowding and corridor care. Crowding kills, but if we do not get this right it will kill more than ever before.

“We cannot lose beds and it’s vital that hospitals are not ran at near capacity. We need to accelerate the roll out of Same Day Emergency Care, ensure alternatives to A&E are available, and physically expand our departments where possible.

“Emergency Departments need to remain segregated to reduce the risk of infection. Staff need appropriate levels of PPE to treat undifferentiated patients. The fact that any work will now take longer also needs to be recognised. The combination of segregated departments and reduced productivity will require flexible staffing reconfiguration.

“In the face of an unprecedented challenge, the NHS has responded well and adapted accordingly. We must not go backwards now by returning to how we were before; lives depend upon it.”

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