Every major hospital will provide urgent same day services to improve care for patients and cut unnecessary admissions by next winter, NHS England has announced.
Some hospitals are already providing care without admitting patients who come to A&E with conditions such as pneumonia or other breathing difficulties through same day emergency care (SDEC) services, which are also known as ambulatory care.
But clinical leaders believe that around half a million more patients a year across England could be assessed, diagnosed, treated and allowed to return home without the need for an overnight stay.
And from Spring, local pilots will test how new NHS standards for urgent and emergency care could support the ambition to ensure patients across the country benefit from this service, with hospitals to be measured on their success in reducing overnight admissions.
Reducing hospital admissions is crucial for improving elderly care. A report by the National Audit Office showed that a 10 day stay in hospital can equate to about 10 years of muscle wasting for a patient.
Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS in England, said: “For seriously ill people a hospital stay is often unavoidable, but we know that too many people – particularly the frail and elderly – are ending up trapped on wards for days on end.
“With modern technology we can now offer many more ill patients access to new rapid tests and optimal treatments from senior doctors all in the same day and avoid admission. That’s more convenient for our patients, and more efficient for the NHS.
“That’s why the NHS Long Term Plan will make sure that more people every year get the right care fast, meaning they could be safely back at home on the same day, and at the same time more hospital beds can be freed up for those who need them most.”
As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, all hospitals which have a full Emergency Department will be required to step up efforts to ensure that they provide this service, with the aim of a third of patients who require an emergency admission being able to return home the same day, up from a fifth currently.
An early pioneer, South Tees Hospital NHS Foundation Trust increased the proportion of same day discharge from 6% to 40% over the three years to 2012, and to 50% by 2015, with the Trust believing these increases are largely down to the introduction of same day emergency care.