Accident and Emergency wait times seem to be constantly in the news. Less commonly but equally importantly are headlines that waiting lists for elective operations and procedures are on the rise. Although these topics hit our headlines regularly there is actually very little evidence and understanding behind the reasons for these changes in NHS services, and how the NHS can take positive action to cope with these issues.
From what we understand a lot of the currently held beliefs around the causes for pressure on NHS services come from very basic, non peer-reviewed, and potentially flawed analyses. It does not need too much explaining that making decisions based on these might be a bad idea.
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.
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