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Bed shortages increase A and E waits

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ACCIDENT and emergency departments are struggling to sustain the four-hour access target because a shortage of hospital beds is delaying the admission of patients from A&E.

ACCIDENT and emergency departments are struggling to sustain the four-hour access target because a shortage of hospital beds is delaying the admission of patients from A&E.

A study of over 500 medical staff by the British Medical Association and the British Association of Emergency Medicine saw 87 per cent report a shortage of available hospital inpatients beds as the main reason for not meeting the target.

A third of respondents claimed that data manipulation was used in order to meet access targets and over half said additional agency or locum staff on short-term contracts were brought into help.

In addition, 95 per cent said they experienced direct or indirect pressure to meet the four hour target.

The survey also revealed clinical concerns. Two thirds of respondents said that some patients may be moved to inappropriate areas or wards to meet targets and 58 per cent reported that patients may be discharged from A&E before they had been adequately assessed or stabilised.

Mr Don MacKechnie, chairman of the BMA's Emergency Medicine Committee said 'doctor and other staff' work exceptionally hard and put in extra hours to meet targets.

'It is frustrating to find that two years on a lack of available inpatient beds is still delaying patients who attend emergency departments,' he said. 'There has to be a coordinated, hospital wide approach that ensures beds are available, if trusts are to make any further progress on improving waiting times for emergency patients.'

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