The King’s Fund has just conducted a review of how the NHS handles emergency care for the elderly. Such patients are admitted via accident and emergency or sent to hospital by GPs for urgent help. The report suggests it is possible to reduce the number of overnight stays by 2.3 million, free up 7,000 beds, and save the NHS nearly £500m a year. This huge improvement in performance would be achieved if all NHS hospitals performed as well as the top 25% of hospitals do now.
The review accepted that urgent care for the elderly this was a complex problem and that improving the performance of 75% of all hospitals would be a challenge. But they identified many aspects of ‘best practice’ that could be adopted, such as:
minimising admissions by getting hospitals to work more closely with GPs and other health services in the community – to help prevent illnesses worsening to the point where patients needed emergency help.
- ensuring senior doctors were present at the point of admission, which could help reduce numbers by ensuring the elderly were channelled to the best services sooner.
- better integration with social care, which would help speed up discharge and reduce length of stay in hospital.