If you surf to a news website right now or flick on the TV news this evening, you might for a moment think that you watching a bad science fiction movie of a dystopian future starring your local A&E department. Sadly, it is real. The news has gone mad about A&E and the waiting time crisis that it faces. This morning the BBC reported that only 82% of patients are meeting the four-hour waiting time target. It doesn’t make pleasant reading.
Spring. The headlines about A&E overcrowding are beginning to disappear just as a fresh wave of news reports burst forth with the NHS priorities for the next government. We now have the luxury of a brief respite to reflect on how we can improve the lot of our hospital A&E’s before the seasonal cycle repeats itself. I have spent my winter looking at A&E data examining the question – could the answer to A&E attendance lie in providing GP appointments for urgent – but non-emergency – care at the weekend?
NHS clinical commissioning groups across the UK are all focused on improving patient care while facing the pressures of an aging population, increasing volumes of patients with multiple complex health problems and the stark political reality of the need to cut costs.
The complexity of these decisions and how to improve care is often enormously underestimated in the popular media. Take for example, the waiting time performance of accident and emergency (A&E) departments in the UK.