Overcrowding in A&E's can cost lives

  • Emergency doctors are warning that patients can be put at serious risk due to what they call "toxic overcrowding".

    The college of Emergency Medicine's dramatic intervention in the debate over how to relieve the pressure on A&E units comes during warnings that the NHS could be facing its toughest winter ever.

    The college has created a list of changes it wants NHS England and ministers to make and the college says that it is vital to "ensure 'exit block' does not occur. Crowding increases mortality," reports the Guardian.

    Dr Cliff Mann, the CEM's president, said: "There's clear evidence from America and from the UK that if you have overcrowded emergency departments then the mortality rates for patients going through that department increases."

    The college represents A&E doctors and highlighted that hospitals were forced to spend £120m on locums last year due the growing number of shortages of all levels of emergency medicine doctors.

    2,000 consultants are needed to provide a consultant-led A&E service at every hospital for at least 16 hours a day, everyday, and the NHS are 600 short of this figure. Mann said that units were operating with half the number of registrars they needed also.

    Due to this the college wants the NHS to consider offering A&E doctors financial incentives, more time off, sabbaticals or earlier retirement in a bid to stop emergency medicine becoming unattractive to young doctors because of the antisocial hours and intense pressure that is involved.

    Many trusts struggling to meet the NHS-wide target of treating 95% of A&E patients within four hours are also those being poorly managed. There is a correlation between trusts receiving shares of the government's £250m bailout for A&E and those with financial problems.

    The Department of Health stressed the action it had taken to improve A&E. "We know that winter is a tough time for the NHS. That's why we've acted early, investing an extra £250m to help A&Es cope with winter pressures.

    "Longer term we want to encourage more trainees to choose A&E, so we've set up the first ever body - Health Education England - which will specifically look at how to get more medical students to become A&E doctors in future," a spokeswoman said.

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