Home Business Insights & Advice How does overcrowding in emergency departments affect diagnostic quality for UK patients?

How does overcrowding in emergency departments affect diagnostic quality for UK patients?

by John Saunders
4th Dec 19 2:32 pm

Whilst our political class and the incumbent government remains almost obsessed with the spurious notion of ‘getting Brexit done’, research overwhelmingly suggests that the electorate has more pressing matters in mind.

More specifically, voters are far more concerned with the state and the future of the NHS than they are about Brexit, with less than three weeks to go until the election date on December 12th.

Whilst this represents a major boost for the Labour party, it also highlights the challenges facing the NHS and the issues caused by the combination of overcrowding and key critical vacancies. But just how impactful is overcrowding in emergency departments nationwide, and how does this impact on diagnostic quality for patients?

Exploring the relationship between overcrowding and the quality of patient care

When we talk about overcrowding, we’re not solely referring to a large number of patients converging on emergency departments at the same time.

In fact, this issue has more to do with the combination of increased demand and a consistent failure to invest in infrastructure, which means that hospitals lack the space and the trained staff to cope during busy periods.

In fact, there are an estimated 39,000 nurse vacancies in the NHS at present, whilst recent reports have confirmed that the total number of clinical vacancies in the NHS is around 97,000.

Thanks to this toxic cocktail, emergency departments and hospitals have come under increased pressure over the course of the last few years, which is probably why medical negligence claims have remained steady as staff have struggled to cope with demand.

These issues have also been borne out by the worst ever recorded performance against the so-called 4-hour access standard, which is a key (if imperfect) metric used to measure emergency crowd department at any given time.

In short, patients waited longer in emergency departments in 2017/18 than at any time since the standard was introduced back in 2004.

This was despite assertive performance management from NHS leaders, which simply wasn’t enough to compensate for the sheer burden placed on the nation’s public healthcare sector.

What can be done to counter this issue?

In practical terms, these issues meant that ambulances were often unable to offload critically ill patients, whilst nurses lacked the resources to process and effectively treat patients (many of whom were left in emergency department corridors where physicians were required to operate in sub-optimal conditions).

Aside from impacting on patients’ dignity, this also has a distinct and adverse impact on the standard of patient care and diagnostic quality nationwide.

But what can be done to resolve this issue? Well, aside from investing in training and filling as many of the front-line NHS staff vacancies as possible, it’s also important that resources are spent wisely and on technology that streamlines patient flow throughout all departments.

Advanced patient flow software is ideally placed to meet this need, as this provides a real-time measure of performance whilst also managing the patient flow to guarantee a high quality of care.

This type of software can also manage the live supply and demand for beds, ensuring that as many patients as possible remain as comfortable as possible during their stay. Make no mistake; streamlining the emergency patient flow is central to safe and effective care, whilst this creates superior working conditions that aids the diagnostic quality provided by physicians.

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