Watchdog Criticises 'Avoidable' Hospital Admissions

A Watchdog Has Said Too Many Unneeded Hospital Admissions Are Straining NHS Service Capacity

31.10.2013

There are far too many emergency admissions into hospitals across England, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

Figures released by the authority show that A&E admissions have risen by 47 per cent in the last 15 years and this has left hospitals struggling to cope in the face of government budget cuts and external factors.

In 2012-13 there were 5.3 million emergency admissions into hospitals all around the country and this represents around 67 per cent of hospital bed days across England - costing £12.5 billion to taxpayers.

To combat this issue, the NAO is calling for the NHS to put in place a simple, easy to understand pathway to guide patients to the most appropriate treatment option.

While the NHS' 111 service was meant to provide this function, a number of administrative difficulties have left the project in the balance and some trusts are outsourcing its operations to third party providers.

If the number of hospital admissions were reduced this could, according to NAO, dramatically improve England and Wales' healthcare system and allow doctors to spend their time on patients that actually need help, as opposed to people whose complaints could be treated by a district nurse or general practitioner.

A statement released by NAO to coincide with its new guidance on avoidable admissions read: "At the heart of managing emergency admissions is the effective management of patient flow through the system. There are large variations in performance at every stage of the patient pathway, some of which are avoidable, suggesting scope for improved outcomes.

"This places additional financial pressure on the NHS as the costs of hospitalisation are high."

The NAO has previously called for efficiencies in the NHS, so in this sense its calls for fewer admissions are not a new development, but the urgency with which it is calling for changes in the face of a potentially challenging 2013-14 winter may force ministers to speed up reforms.

Expert Opinion
Time and time again we see the devastating consequences that under resourced and over-crowded hospital wards have on patient safety.

“A clearer pathway for patients who do not require immediate emergency treatment would allow over-stretched A & E wards to concentrate on providing good, thorough care to those who desperately need it, without having to dedicate as much time to looking after patients with minor injuries or illness.

“The administrative errors that led to problems with the 111 service introduced earlier this year must be learnt from so a new pathway for non-emergency patients can be rolled out smoothly and effectively, which will alleviate pressure on A & E services and provide safe guidance, care and support to those that need it.”
Julie Lewis, Partner