Senior nurses react to NHS emergency care waiting time figures

They say more nurses must be encouraged to enter the specialty 

Investing in specialist training and improving links with community services will turn around poor emergency care in hospitals, according to two senior nurses. 

RCN Emergency Care Association chair and nurse consultant Janet Youd, and emergency nurse practitioner and lecturer Jim Bethel, were responding to the A&E attendances and emergency admissions figures for February, which were released this week by NHS England.

The data shows that emergency departments in England kept 224,116 patients waiting for more than four hours to be admitted, compared with 131,248 for the same period a year ago.

Ms Youd called the past winter ‘the hardest I've known in 15 years’ and predicted worse to come when March’s figures are published.

She said: ‘The people needing to be admitted to emergency wards are often older, vulnerable and hard to nurse – especially if they are being left on trolleys in hospital corridors.

‘There is a significant shortage of acute beds and specialist nurses in emergency wards. You cannot just draft any nurse into this environment and expect them to start assessing patients.

‘Until we can get the investment needed to encourage nurses to the specialty, I can't see things being turned around.’

Mr Bethel disagreed about the severity of the winter: 'In terms of patient acuity and mortality, I don’t think it was worse than previous years.’

However, he agreed about the lack of specialist nurses in emergency departments and cited an over-reliance on agency staff, which ‘makes the numbers look good, but means the skill mix becomes diluted’.

He urged trusts to improve discharge planning and links between primary and social care to ease the crisis.

The figures can be seen here

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