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Patients confused over emergency care

Some 40% of emergency services fail to make top grade

OnMedica Staff

Friday, 26 September 2008

Standards of emergency care vary widely throughout the country, and patients are often left confused about where to go for help.

The heath watchdog, The Healthcare Commission, today published its major review covering all urgent and emergency services, which for the first time assessed how the whole system works together. The review included ambulance services, A&E, out-of-hours GP services, NHS Direct, urgent care provided by GPs, and urgent care centres including walk-in centres and minor injuries units.

While 60% of PCT areas scored the top two ratings this still left a sizeable number of underachievers, causing the Healthcare Commission to call for a new drive to improve the system for deliving urgent and emergency care across England.

Anna Walker, the Commission’s Chief Executive, explained: “There have been real improvements in the number of people getting urgent care quickly.

“But more could be done to get these services working together so that the right care is provided at the right time and in the right way. People often don’t know which services to use, and too often have to repeat their story time and again because services don’t always share information effectively.

“Navigating between services can be difficult and confusing for patients and this can have a real impact, especially on people with more complex needs, such as older people and people with disabilities. Integrating services across a local area will help address these challenges.

“We are calling on the Government and healthcare organisations to renew their efforts to get the whole system working together so people can get the right care when they need it.”

The review also highlighted discrepancies in care. For example, in the best units 100% of children who presented with a fractured limb received pain relief within an hour, but in the worst performing units only 20% received this within the target time.

And only 30% of all urgent care centres said that all GPs in their area were able to receive electronic information about their patients.

In all, 33% of local areas were rated as ‘best’ performing, 27% as ‘better’ performing, 22% as ‘fair’ and 18% (28 areas) as ‘least well’ performing.

The government’s emergency care tsar Professor Sir George Alberti  welcomed the review.

"We are not complacent and we recognise the importance of encouraging continuous improvement in local services to ensure the delivery of timely, high quality care to patients,” he said, “That is why we are working with the Healthcare Commission to host three national events to help Primary Care Trusts use this Review to take stock of where they are and develop their commissioning plans to deliver the expectations set out in the Next Stage Review to improve urgent and emergency cares services to patients."


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