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NHS needs to simplify emergency urgent care

The NHS needs to provide a much simpler and co-ordinated system of 24/7 urgent and emergency care- a review of its services says.NHS needs to simplify emergency urgent careIt also warns that many patients are confused about who to turn to when they need urgent medical help, so too often they go to A&E units.

The review – led by NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh – says there should be a much simpler 24/7 system. He said the review offered an “excellent opportunity” to improve.

Urgent or unplanned care leads to around 100 million NHS calls or visits each year, the report says.

A growing number of frail elderly patients, more long-term illnesses, new treatments and “increased public expectations” have all contributed to increased demand.

The fragmentation and diverse nomenclature of urgent care services across England causes confusion amongst patients”

However this review looks at all kinds of urgent and emergency care – including walk-in centres, telephone advice lines and minor injury centres – and concludes there is pressure throughout the system.

A key issue is “fragmentation and variation” in services- which leads to confusion among patients who are then likely to “default” to A&E because they know where it is, that it will be open and offer a full range of care.

The report says: “The fragmentation and diverse nomenclature of urgent care services across England causes confusion amongst patients and healthcare professionals in terms of services offered. This can lead to patients presenting at services that may not best suit their needs.”

It adds that there is an increasing reliance on telephone advice, but the report warns that some patients “lack confidence” in such care and says they will often seek a second opinion anyway, leading to a “duplication of service provision”.

Other issues identified include a lack of patient-awareness about the care which community pharmacists can provide, and the need for senior staff to be on duty more of the time, such as at weekends.