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RCEM: ‘without a plan to deal with current pressures, patients and staff could suffer’

7 June 2021

Commenting on statements made by health workers in the Independent about staff facing ‘burnout’ and the potential need to delay the easing of restrictions, Dr Katherine Henderson, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:

“The Emergency Department (ED) performance data for April showed the highest number of attendances at Type 1 EDs this year and the highest since January 2020. And we expect the data for May to show a further increase.

“Emergency Departments are facing increasing pressures, and reports from our colleagues in primary care and elective care suggest they are dealing with similarly intense pressures. The health service is in a precarious position. Our fear is that with more widespread mixing, particularly among young people who have not been offered the vaccine yet, there will be a rise in covid cases and covid hospital admissions, leading to further pressures on the health service, derailing elective care. This is an especially pressing concern with the Delta variant, which data suggest is more transmissible and may lead to more cases of hospitalisation.

“Emergency Departments and hospitals have reduced bed capacity because of essential infection prevention control measures. But we are reaching pre-pandemic levels of demand and hospital activity. Staff are exhausted after 15 months of this intense work. And the workforce, short of staff before the pandemic, is further reduced with some staff taking leave as a result of burnout and exhaustion.

“The combination of increased demand, reduced bed capacity and reduced workforce are presenting huge challenges for the health service currently.

“As restrictions are eased and with the improvements in the weather it is likely that there will be more attendances at Emergency Departments. We must make sure that we can cope with any surge in demand. The government must listen to health leaders and recognise that Emergency Departments and the rest of the Health and Social Care service must be given a plan to meet current, and any potential increase in, demand. In particular, we urgently need to find a way to expand capacity. Without any plan to deal with this current phase of pressures, the health service will be continually challenged, and it is our patients and staff who suffer.”


Notes to Editor

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