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Pressure on Accident and Emergency Departments could lead to more deaths

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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The pressures on Accident and Emergency Departments have been in the spotlight this week among revelations from the president of the College of Emergency Medicine that overcrowding could lead to more deaths and serious illness.

It has been reported that Accident and Emergency Departments are dangerously understaffed and are having to deal with increasing numbers of patients. The Government’s target of 95% of patients being admitted or discharged within 4 hours is being increasingly dropped by departments with the number of patients waiting for between 4 and 12 hours increasing by 34,000.

 One of the reasons cited for the increase in patients is due to the lack of other out-of-hours medical services. The Government has acknowledged that patients are not aware of the alternatives to A & E when they require treatment after 5pm or at the weekend and has pledged to address problems with out-of-hours services and telephone services such as 111. Family GPs, however, from the British Medical Association GP’s Committee, have stressed that they cannot be expected to work dangerously long hours to underpin services under increasing strain.

One of the suggestions proposed by the College of Emergency Medicine is the setting up of GP surgeries within Accident and Emergency Departments so that patients that do not require emergency treatment, up to 30% according to some statistics, can be treated appropriately by GPs leaving the more seriously ill and injured to be treated promptly. These would obviously cost money to set up, which is often avoided in this time of cuts and austerity, however, with a background of delays in treatment causing deaths and serious illness, this would be money well spent.

By Gemma Crompton