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Radical shakeup of emergency care is needed to protect patients

22 Jul 2020

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has written to The Times to emphasise a change to emergency care is needed to protect patients.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has written to The Times to emphasise a change to emergency care is needed to protect patients.

Supporting this letter, the President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, Professor Jackie Taylor said:

“COVID-19 will bring additional challenges to managing patient safety in emergency care particularly during winter pressures. We need to change how we work now and transform services to help both staff and patients. A move towards a group of clinical standards to drive improvement is an essential part of this transformation.”

Below is the full letter sent to The Times:

Dear Sir

Radical shakeup of emergency care is needed to protect patients 

As the coordinating body for the UK and Ireland’s 23 medical royal colleges and faculties we are very pleased to see additional funding for the NHS this winter. One new and major concern emerging, in the face of COVID-19, is the need to maintain patient safety in the emergency care pathway. We are encouraged by the recognition that many Emergency Departments need to be repurposed and rebuilt to improve infection prevention and control and maintain social distancing.

However, given the huge challenges the NHS will inevitably face this winter, we must also radically change the way we work as well. It’s our view that we have a once in a generation chance to transform the service that was previously spiralling out of control. Patients and staff should not be expected to simply go back to the system as it was in January of this year.

As the medical royal college community, we are committed to working together to revolutionise acute care because it impacts, directly or indirectly, on the whole health system. We fully support investment in primary care access and the proposed change to accessing emergency care via NHS 111, both of which will ensure patients receive the right care, at the right time in the right setting. This encompasses care in the community as well as hospitals to improve access to beds and specialist care.

This investment and transformation must be underpinned by modernising performance. We need to move away from one-dimensional performance measurements, such as the ‘four-hour A&E target’, towards a group of clinical standards that will drive improvement for patients from the minute they seek urgent medical help until the moment they are discharged. This will improve outcomes for all patients – urgent and routine – as it will promote whole system development and lead to better use of resources. We should not let this opportunity slip through our grasp.

Professor Carrie MacEwen


Academy of Medical Royal Colleges

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