Hospitals struggling to cope, say doctors
By Vivienne Russell | 13 September 2012
Hospital doctors have warned that acute care in the NHS could be on the brink of collapse, with hospitals struggling to keep up with demand.
The Royal College of Physicians’ report notes that there are a third fewer general and acute beds than 25 years ago, yet emergency admissions have increased by 37% in the past decade alone.
In addition, the majority of people admitted to hospital (65%) are over the age of 65 and many are frail or have a diagnosis of dementia. Hospital buildings, services and staff are ‘all too often’ not equipped to deal with such patients, the RCP said, leading to a detrimental effect on patient care. According to the college, it is ‘not uncommon’ for elderly patients to be moved four or five times during a hospital stay.
In February this year the RCP established a Future Hospital Commission to consider how the processes and standards for the treatment of inpatients could be improved. It will report in spring 2013.
Professor Tim Evans, lead fellow on the commission, said: ‘All hospital inpatients deserve to receive safe, high-quality, sustainable care centre around their needs and delivered in an appropriate setting by respectful, compassionate, expert health professionals.
‘Yet it is increasingly clear that our hospitals are struggling to cope with the challenge of an ageing population who increasingly present to our hospitals with multiple complex diseases. We must act now to make the drastic changes required to provide the care they deserve.’
The RCP is urging a redesign of services to better meet patients’ needs, which it adds might involved consolidation of hospital services and hospital closure. Access to primary care should also be improved so people can see their GP out-of-hours taking the strain off Accident & Emergency departments.