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Urgent and Emergency Care System in South West in crisis ahead of ‘looming’ winter

8 September 2022

Responding to the latest Emergency Department performance figures for the South West Region, Dr James Gagg, South West Regional Chair of The Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said:

“The data for the South West is shocking. Large numbers of patients facing extremely long waiting times. The reality on the ground is awful, ambulances queuing outside packed Emergency Departments with no beds in which to move patients. Patients waiting in inappropriate places such as corridors. The situation is bleak. This is at a time of year where Health & Social Care Systems historically function better ahead of the recurring winter crises.

“Emergency Medicine staff, along with paramedics and ambulance staff, are doing all they can to ensure the urgent and emergency care system continues to function and deliver to care. But it is extremely challenging. The lack of adequate social care makes it difficult to discharge patients in a timely way. These vulnerable patients reside in hospital longer than medically necessary, unable to return to home. This causes exit block and poor flow throughout the hospital, and means we are unable to admit patients to a bed. Patients are anxious and frustrated by the long waiting times, staff are distressed at their inability to provide the quality of care they are trained to provide and face moral injury daily.

“We must get to grips with this crisis. We urge local MPs in the South West, local councils and local authorities to acknowledge this crisis and the looming winter, and act now before it is too late. We urge that social care is resourced and expanded to help with the timely discharge of patients. We ask Members of Parliament to urge the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, and the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Therese Coffey, to address the shortfall in beds and NHS staff in the South West. The scale of patient harm is distressing and completely unacceptable. As we approach winter it is critical that we mitigate this harm and keep patients safe.”

Notes to editor

The latest regional monthly performance figures published by NHS England for August 2022 for the South West show:

  • There were 113,686 attendances at major Emergency Departments in the South West
    • This accounted for 8.7% of all attendances in England
  • Four-hour performance at major Emergency Departments was 54.8%
    • This means that 51,836 patients spent a minimum of four hours in a major Emergency Department, equal to just over one in two attendances
  • 3,721 patients were delayed for 12 hours or more from decision to admit to admission
    • This figure was 648 in August 2021, and was just 22 in August 2019
  • There were 31,836 emergency admissions to hospital to major (Type 1) Emergency Departments
    • This means that more than one in nine patients admitted to a major Emergency Department were waiting for 12-hours or more
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