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A&E pressures 'endangering patients'

A&E pressures 'endangering patients'


Current pressures on A&E are putting patients in danger, leading healthcare organisations have warned. 

Surveys released by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the NHS Confederation show increasing worry over the state of A&E services this winter. 

Eighty-five per cent of nurses working in acute and emergency care settings said that patient safety is being compromised due to increased pressure, with 19% saying this is the case in every shift. 

The RCN survey also showed that 89% of nurses surveyed experienced increased pressure over the last sic months. 

Many nurses (74%) said inappropriate attendances at A&E were the main cause, with 57% citing a lack of beds. 

RCN chief executive Dr Peter Carter said: “Staff enter the health profession to save, and improve, lives through first-class care. However they simply cannot deliver this if there are too few staff to properly treat and monitor the increasing numbers of patients, not enough beds to put them in and no clear signposting to community care that could prevent attendance at A&E.

“The UK’s acute and emergency care services are one of the essential components of our national health service and we have to safeguard them. As winter approaches, we welcome this renewed focus on urgently addressing the issues threatening services and look forward to working with the NHS Confederation to help implement identified solutions.”

'Responsible debate'

Senior health leaders told the NHS Confederation that “misleading and ill-informed debate” about the reasons behind A&E pressures is making it harder to address the actual causes. 

Half of those surveyed said the main reason for increased pressure on A&E is the rising number of frail older people with multiple long-term conditions. 

A quarter said difficulties transferring patients to alternative case settings is the main problem. 

Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, called for a more responsible debate about health services. Without it, members warn there is a major risk of undermining patients' confidence in the full range of health services that they provide. 

He said: “"We have known for some time that pressures on A&E are at their highest ever, and the honest picture is one of a service facing unprecedented demand.

"But as if the genuine rise in seriously ill, frail A&E attendees wasn't putting enough strain on the system, the NHS is also struggling from ill-informed speculation about what is causing the pressures and what services they can rely on to meet their needs.

"The knock-on effect is that the public have so little confidence in alternative options for meeting their healthcare needs that they believe the only recourse is to turn up at A&E. It's a vicious spiral."

Respondents suggested that a change in payment system, with Monitor, NHS England and local commissioners working together so that A&E work is “rewarded fairly”. 


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