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Urgent and emergency care

Winter pressure fears after highest ever emergency hospital admissions

NHS data show that emergency hospital admissions were up by 5.8% in October 2018 compared to the same month in 2017.

Emergency hospital admissions have reached their highest level since data collection began, leading to fears that the NHS could face even more severe winter pressures than in previous years.

NHS performance statistics, published on 8 November 2018 by NHS England, show that there were 542,435 emergency hospital admissions in England during October 2018, 5.8% higher than October 2017, and the highest on record since data collection began in October 2013.

Other emergency and urgent care statistics show that there were 2.1 million emergency department attendances in October 2018, 0.9% more than in October 2017. Attendances over the past 12 months were 3.6% higher than in the same period the previous year. 

The data also show that patients have been waiting longer for emergency treatment compared to October 2017, with 48,650 patients waiting more than four hours from decision to admit to admission in October 2018, 6.9% higher than in October 2017.

NHS England and NHS Improvement published guidance in October 2018 suggesting that all hospitals should include pharmacists as part of the emergency room team to help tackle likely winter pressures.

Commenting on the figures, Rob Harwood, chair of the British Medical Association consultants committee, said the figures should “ring alarm bells” for the UK government.

“[In October 2018], emergency [hospital] admissions hit a record high while the number of patients waiting more than four hours to be seen was almost 10% higher than [2017]. These statistics represent what happened in hospitals during a relatively mild autumn before the added pressure associated with much colder weather hits.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20205730

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