Cuts in Emergency Provision at A&E Increases Mortality Risk, Figures Suggest

10 December 2013

Cuts in Emergency Provision at A&E Increases Mortality Risk, Figures Suggest

Official figures from the NHS, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from The Mail On Sunday, show that hospital casualty department closures have led to a rise in death rates.

A 37 per cent rise in mortality rates for emergency patients was found at Newark in Nottinghamshire, where the Accident and Emergency (A&E) unit was closed two years ago. The Freedom of Information (FOI) request came from the NHS trusts where Newark patients are now being sent and shows clearly the impact on emergency patients when an emergency unit closes.

The specific information The Mail On Sunday found was that of 5,441 Newark patients admitted for emergency treatment last year, 264 died – a figure of 4.85 per cent. However in 2009, when there were 5,431 emergency cases, just 192 patients died – a reduced figure of 3.53 per cent. 2009 was the year before Newark A&E was actually closed-even though the town has a higher than average elderly population.

Tory MP Andrew Percy, a leading member of the Commons health committee expressed shock at the figures, telling the newspaper ‘These shocking figures confirm what many local people already suspected. Shutting local A&E centres does not improve patients’ survival changes, it dramatically worsens them. There should be no more such closures until we have a thorough review of this policy.’ 

Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow, the former Care Services Minister, said: ‘I find these figures on death rates very worrying. ‘I do have misgivings ... it is now time to review the whole approach.’

Chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners Dr Clare Gerada said: ‘The Newark data revealed by The Mail on Sunday points to a close association between A&E closures and mortality. It is clear the provision of emergency care is in crisis across the whole of the NHS.

‘Before any further closures are contemplated, there must be a full, independent assessment of their impact on patients and on the system as a whole.’

The impact of pressures on A&E units has come under particular scrutiny lately and the emergency provisions they provide. This impact can be illustrated by the fact that there has been a doubling of the number of patients forced to wait more than four hours for treatment over the past 12 months.

David Prior, head of NHS watchdog the Care Quality Commission, has said the entire health system is ‘at the brink of collapse’ because of the pressure on A&E. 

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