Accident & Emergency Misuse: We’re Here to Help

In his latest blog, Founder and CEO of Now Healthcare Group Lee Dentith discusses the misuse of accident & emergency departments in UK hospitals and how mHealth can be used to reduce inappropriate admissions.

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As I was browsing through last week’s news stories, I found myself once again reading a story concerning the worrying misuse of our nation’s accident and emergency facilities. Peterborough City Hospital recently reported a phenomenal 40% rise in patient numbers, with countless patients turning up with issues for which a trip to A&E were completely unnecessary.

It was reported that one woman turned up to the hospital as she had a broken finger nail, while another complained of suffering from hiccups! This is simply not what A&E is for – and, in all honesty, it isn’t something which healthcare providers have the time to be dealing with.

“Unprecedented numbers” are turning up at A&E departments on a regular basis, at a cost of around £120 to the NHS each time someone comes through the door.

This quote from chief operating officer at Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Neil Doverty, is rather worrying:

“On Sunday and Monday our staff treated some 700 patients over the two days, which equates to 40% more patients than the usual average attendance. [People need] to think about the treatment they need before they come to A&E.”

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While the broken nails scenario is presumably something of a one-off, a dangerous number of people are using A&E services for health issues which are simply not appropriate.

As a nation we have to take a step back and think about why this is continuing to happen, and a lack of access to primary care is undoubtedly a major contributing factor. In today’s busy “on-the-go” society, people don’t have the time to wait weeks for an appointment with their local GP. This means that when people fall ill, even if it’s minor issues like coughs and colds, they will head straight to A&E departments or NHS walk-in centres to seek help.

This is where we come in. Mobile healthcare is a fantastic alternative when it comes to primary care access. What we need right now is to alleviate pressure on the health service as much as possible, and our products have been created for exactly that purpose.

By connecting patients to a GP through their smartphone, our Now GP platform has been created for ultimate convenience and to help reduce the number of these inappropriate A&E admissions. The current model isn’t working – it’s time to embrace mHealth and the benefits it can bring to our society.


A&E Waiting Times Continue to Worsen

New figures from the College of Emergency Medicine make sorry reading for our nation’s health service, as hospitals continue to slip further and further away from their four hour A&E performance targets.

Waiting times continue to escalate in overcrowded A&E departments, with the latest numbers showing that 88% of patients were treated or admitted within four hours – significantly below the 95% target. As well as a struggle to get patients seen by A&E departments, the BBC has reported that there are also problems getting them to leave – in some hospitals, a fifth of all beds are occupied by patients who are ready to leave but cannot be discharged because of a lack of community services available for them.

waiting time figures for a&e departments

Photo credit: BBC

The NHS has taken steps to tackle the issue of overcrowding, with three quarters of UK hospitals increasing their stock of beds in an effort to relieve pressure and a growing number of previously routine operations now cancelled. Despite this, though, the problem continues to grow worse and worse and according to the President of the College of Emergency Medicine, Dr Cliff Mann, the “worst is yet to come.”


Figures show that A&E waiting times have continued to worsen over the past seven weeks


He said: “The majority of hospitals have endeavoured to increase the number of beds available to cope. Despite this, elective operations have had to be cancelled and postponed as bed capacity is insufficient to cope.”

The data collected from the college contains information on waiting times from the past seven weeks, monitoring the level of pressure on hospitals during winter. It shows a gradual worsening in performance since the beginning of October, when just over 92% of patients were seen within the target window of four hours.

Weekly data was previously made available by NHS England and the government themselves, but this stopped recently with data now published monthly with a six-week time lag. The latest information from the NHS, then, is from September and shows the four hour target being missed, along with other targets related to ambulance response times, cancer care and diagnostics tests.

ambulances outside an emergency care centre

 

This unsustainable pressure on our national health service comes as a result of the population’s struggle to receive the primary care that they need. With millions of us struggling to get a GP appointment within a week, patients turn to A&E for what are, quite often, non-urgent matters. Our dynamic telehealth service, Now GP, is aiming to alleviate the pressure on our NHS by supplying the public and businesses with a reliable and affordable alternative to primary healthcare.