Many admissions to under-pressure A&E departments are ‘avoidable’, according to a new report released today.
A study by the National Audit Office has also found that patients are staying in hospital for longer than necessary.
Staff in hospitals throughout the West Midlands have seen patient numbers go through the roof in the past year – and with winter on the way, pressures are likely to increase even further.
The new study found that factors putting pressure on A&E units include ‘confusing’ NHS services and poor access to out-of-hours GP care.
The four-hour A&E waiting time targets – which mean patients cannot be kept in A&E for observation – was another reason highlighted, as was a negative impact from the new 111 non-emergency NHS number
In 2012-13 more than a quarter of all patients attending major A&E departments were then admitted to hospital – up from 19 per cent in 2003-04.
The report said: “A&E departments are facing increasing pressure, and trusts told us that at times of increased pressure, there is a greater tendency to admit patients.
“The increase in emergency admissions over the last 15 years has come almost entirely from patients being admitted from major A&E departments who have a short hospital stay once admitted.”
Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital has been among those to see record patient numbers in the past 12 months.
To help combat pressures on staff, bosses are next week opening a 10-bed extension costing £2.5million, before a brand new £31m A&E department opens at New Cross in 2015.
Last month the Government announced plans to dish out £500m to A&E units across the country – with £8m awarded to hospital trusts in Sandwell and Staffordshire.
Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, which runs Cannock Chase and Stafford hospitals, has been allocated £3.7m this year, while Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust will receive £4.2m.
The report said: “The number of emergency admissions to hospitals – admissions that are not planned and happen at short notice because of perceived clinical need – continues to rise at a time when NHS budgets are under significant pressure.”