Emergency services come in for criticism

Urgent and emergency healthcare in Britain has come under intense criticism in a new report published by the Healthcare Commission today.

Those in worse performing areas have poor GP out-of-hours services, longer waits for care and a lack of services tailored to people with disabilities and long term illnesses.

“People often don’t know which services to use, and too often have to repeat their story time and again because services don’t always share information effectively,” said Anna Walker, the commission’s chief executive.

Most areas were conducting a competent service, but 22 per cent of areas were described as ‘fair’ while 18 per cent were doing ‘least well’. That still leaves 60 per cent of areas in the top two categories of ‘best’ and ‘better’.

The review comes as the NHS sees record numbers of people using emergency services. In 2007/08, there were 19.1 million visits to A&E and urgent care centres, compared to 16.5 million visits in 2003/04.

“Navigating between services can be difficult and confusing for patients and this can have a real impact, especially on people with more complex needs, such as older people and people with disabilities,” Ms Walker added.

The review included analysis of ambulance services, A&E, out-of-hours GP services, NHS Direct, urgent care provided by GPs, and urgent care centres including walk-in centres and minor injuries units.