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To prevent another crippling winter, we must use the summer to prepare our hospitals and Emergency Departments, RCEM says

20 April 2021

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has launched a new campaign Summer to Recover: Winter-Proofing Urgent and Emergency Care for 2021.

The campaign outlines a series of important actions, recommendations, and guidance that four-nation Governments, NHS bodies, NHS Trusts and Boards, and Emergency Department Leadership Teams can take to ‘winter-proof’ the Urgent and Emergency Care system.

The campaign comes following the intense pressures faced by hospitals and Emergency Departments across the UK as a result of the pandemic and the gruelling winter the health service has just experienced.

Dr Katherine Henderson, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:

“This year has been like no other for health care workers and Emergency Medicine staff. We have all had to adapt quickly to face the intense pressures of the pandemic and in many ways, we have changed the way we deliver care.

“Every winter our hospitals near capacity, our Emergency Departments become crowded, and staff are stretched thinly, sometimes having to administer care in corridors.

“This winter, with the severely high-risk of covid, patient safety was at the forefront of our minds. We could not have crowded Emergency Departments and we could not allow for corridor care. Prevention of hospital acquired infection, enforcing strict infection prevention control measures and social distancing were vital tools to keeping our patients and staff safe.

“Winter saw intense pressures in our Emergency Departments: the ambulances waiting to admit patients into hospital were pictured and widely reported; there were long-delays for some patients in Emergency Departments; staff severely struggled to move patients through the system; and there were huge issues with capacity. It was incredibly tough for staff and patients alike and for many, it will be unforgettable.

“Now, we are seeing a return of our community patients and demand for urgent and emergency care services is beginning to increase, as we return to ‘normal’ we cannot allow our old practices to make a comeback. Crowding and corridor care presented a huge challenge to staff and put patient safety at risk.

“We currently have an opportunity to transform the urgent and emergency care pathway. So, we are launching a new campaign, Summer to Recover: Winter-proofing Urgent and Emergency Care for 2021 outlines a series of recommendations the College is making to the four-nation Governments and NHS bodies, to NHS Trusts and Boards, and to ED Leadership Teams.

“We know there is a challenge ahead with tackling the backlog of elective care, but we must use the time we have and use the Summer to Recover and prepare our hospitals and staff for Winter 2021.

NHS England 2021/22 priorities and operational planning guidance for the year ahead, together with the recommendations outlined in the consultation on the clinical review of standards are welcome and are aligned with the College’s own recommendations in our new campaign.

“The implementation of the metrics proposed in the consultation on the Clinical Review of Standards, particularly measuring 12-hours from arrival, are welcome and will help identify areas of improvement quicker, but without the ability to resolve these issues with adequate capacity, resources, staff or alternative care there will be little we can do in the Emergency Department.

“Expanding capacity, ensuring there is adequate alternative care that patients have access to, and working with local health systems, are all tools that will be crucial to ensuring our Emergency Departments are not crowded again.

“We have said it before; we must not let Emergency Departments become the safety-net of the system. What happens in the Emergency Department ripples throughout the hospital and the health and social care network. We must work together to prevent crowding, to maximise the safety of our patients and to reduce long and high-risk delays.

“Next Winter may seem like a long way off but to prevent another crippling winter, like the one we have just experienced, we must learn, and recognise the shortages and lack of preparation we faced and absolutely guarantee that this winter, we are ready, and we are prepared.”


Notes to Editor

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