Hospital Dr News

Thousands of excess deaths caused by crowding in Emergency Departments, report finds

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine says at least 4,519 patients have died as a result of crowding and 12 hour stays in Emergency Departments in England in 2020-2021.

The new report, called Crowding and its Consequences, investigates the extent of harm that crowding causes and applies NHSE’s own findings from the Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) program which found that one in 67 patients staying in the Emergency Department for 12 hours come to excess harm.

In October 2021, there were 7,059 12-hour stays from decision to admit, the highest number ever recorded, and 40% higher than September 2021 which was the previous highest on record.

The number of 12-hour stays has risen drastically for six months, the report says, and is likely to rise again in coming months.

Hospital Episodic Statistics show that 12-hour stays from time of arrival are 21 times higher than 12-hour DTA stays. The report says at least one in 67 of these patients are coming to avoidable harm.

In the long-term, the College is calling for the Government to restore bed capacity to pre-pandemic levels. Across the UK an additional 7,170 beds are required.

Dr Adrian Boyle, Vice President (Policy) of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “Quite simply, crowding kills. For many years we have issued warnings about the harm that dangerous crowding causes, but now we can see the number of excess deaths that have occurred as a result.

“The situation is unacceptable, unsustainable and unsafe for patients and staff.”

A recent report by the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives found that as many as 160,000 patients annually, may be coming to harm as a result of delayed ambulance handovers.

Facing worst crisis

Boyle added: “Political and health leaders must realise that if performance continues to fall this winter: more and more patients will come to avoidable harm in the Emergency Department; staff will face moral injury; and the urgent and emergency care system will be deep into the worst crisis it has faced.”

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “NHS leaders and staff are doing their utmost to provide patients with the treatment that they need. However, the health service requires urgent support to address severe workforce shortages as well as a waiting list for elective care which now stands at 5.82m patients.”

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