NHS England has announced plans for all major hospital to provide urgent same day services to improve care for patients and cut unnecessary admissions by next winter.
The announcement today from NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis will be part of the NHS Long Term Plan.
Many hospitals are already providing comprehensive care without admitting patients who come to A&E with conditions such as pneumonia or other breathing difficulties through same day emergency care (SDEC) services – known as ambulatory care.
NHS England said that SDEC services can prevent patients deteriorating from unnecessary or long stays in hospital, free up beds in hospital wards, and improve the flow of patients through A&E.
However, clinical leaders believe that around half a million more patients a year across England could be assessed, diagnosed, treated and allowed to return home without the need for an overnight stay.
From this spring, local pilots will test how new NHS standards for urgent and emergency care could support the drive to ensure patients across the country benefit from this service, with hospitals to be measured on their success in reducing overnight admissions.
All hospitals which have a full emergency department will be required to ensure that they provide this service, with the aim of a third of patients who require an emergency admission being able to return home the same day – up from a fifth currently.
An early pioneer, South Tees Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, increased the proportion of same day discharge from 6% to 40% over the three years to 2012, and to 50% by 2015, said NHS England, with the trust believing these increases were largely due to the introduction of same day emergency care.
The full adoption of SDEC services was part of a raft of measures set out in the NHS Long Term Plan, said NHS England, to help ensure that people with urgent care needs got the right help in the right place, and reduce pressure on A&Es.
Under the plans, ambulance services, out-of-hours GPs and Urgent Treatment Centres will also work more closely together as part of a 24/7 Integrated Urgent Care Service, which patients will be able to access through the NHS 111 phone line or online service.
At the heart of the new service will be teams made up by a range of different professionals, covering physical and mental health, to provide specialist advice, assessments and referrals to the most appropriate service.
Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, said: “For seriously ill people a hospital stay is often unavoidable, but we know that too many people – particularly the frail and elderly – are ending up trapped on wards for days on end.
“With modern technology we can now offer many more ill patients access to new rapid tests and optimal treatments from senior doctors all in the same day and avoid admission. That’s more convenient for our patients, and more efficient for the NHS.
“That’s why the NHS Long Term Plan will make sure that more people every year get the right care fast, meaning they could be safely back at home on the same day, and at the same time more hospital beds can be freed up for those who need them most.”