Emergency medicine doctors launch campaign to end ‘corridor care’

Author: Caroline White

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) has launched a campaign to end "corridor care" across the UK in the wake of its own data showing that over 100,000 patients have waited more than 12 hours in A&E departments since the start of the winter.

The College’s annual Winter Flow Project has collected a range of data from over 50 trusts and boards across the UK since October 2019, representing roughly a third of all acute trusts.

The data, published on a weekly basis, show that since the start of October 2019 a total of 102,776 people waited for over 12 hours in emergency care departments, with average performance against the four-hour standard of just over 72%. During this period, an average of 36,225 beds were open each week.

RCEM president, Dr Katherine Henderson said: “These figures are shocking and bear out what staff are telling us: our hospitals have run out of room.

“We do not have an adequate number of beds to admit the sickest patients to. This means that patients… cannot move on to the next stage of their care, resulting in overcrowded departments.

“Not only is this frustrating for patients and staff alike, but keeping patients waiting in corridors compromises their dignity and puts safety at risk; we know that long waits are associated with increased mortality.”

She continued: “We need more beds and we must end the practice of ‘corridor care’, which is why we’re launching RCEM CARES.”

The RCEM CARES campaign focuses on five main issues that need to be addressed to improve emergency care: crowding; access; retention; experience; and safety.

The campaign takes a holistic approach to improving emergency care departments and recommends actions for decision makers, including government.

“It is a guide to remedying the dire situation we are in and, if put into practice, will help improve the lives of patients and staff,” said Dr Henderson, adding: “We must reduce crowding, increase alternative access to care, work to retain staff, improve patient experience and ensure safety is at the heart of what we do.”

As well as an increase in capital budgets, RCEM CARES wants the number of hospital beds to be increased by at least 5,000 to improve the flow of patients through emergency departments, and an additional 2500 emergency medicine consultants and 4000 emergency nurses by 2025 to address the shortages in the workforce.

It is also calling for reform of pension taxation so that senior staff can take on extra shifts to fill rota gaps without incurring unpredictable and large tax bills and investment of at least £4.4 billion in adult social care, in England alone, by 2023/4 so hospitals can discharge people promptly when their medical care is complete.

Everyone had a part to play, from clinical leads, to regulators, to NHS management, said Dr Henderson, but “the heavy lifting” must be done by the government, she insisted.

“Let’s grasp the opportunity of a new decade and a new government ─ a government that has indicated that the NHS is at the heart of its policies ─ to be open about the problems and determined to solve them,” she said.

She added: “Before building new hospitals, we need to fix and expand the crumbling emergency departments we already have, to make them fit for the 21st century and safe, suitable environments for high quality care. The forthcoming budget is an opportunity to make this happen.”