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An expansion of same day emergency care services across the country has seen thousands more people every week get the rapid tests and treatment they need to avoid an overnight stay in hospital – with the total up by more than a tenth in just a year.

New data shows there has been an 11% increase in number of people who were admitted to hospital as an emergency complete their care and be discharged on the same day, meaning hundreds of thousands more patients received the urgent care they needed in a matter of hours, freeing up wards beds for others who needed them.

In the past 12 months, there were 206,446 more patients discharged on the same day having received the care that they needed, rather than having to stay overnight in hospital (from 1,817,683 in the year to January 2023 to 2,024,129 in the year to January 2024).

The NHS has met the Urgent and Emergency Recovery Plan ambition to roll out same day emergency care to every hospital in England, helping to free up beds and keep people out of hospital by as much as 30% in some NHS Trusts.

Running 12 hours a day, seven days a week, the units help staff to assess, diagnose and treat hundreds of thousands of patients a year as well as supporting patients to go home after receiving the care that they need.

This winter, more than 1.7 million people were taken to hospitals by ambulance (since the week ending 26 November) – 260,000 more than the same comparable period a year ago – and NHS 111 answered 7.2 million calls, hundreds of thousands more than last winter.

A&E departments are managing record levels of demand with an average of 74,219 attendances per day in February 2024 - the busiest February on record. Despite this, a greater proportion of attendances completed their A&E treatment in less than four hours (70.9%) than in the month previous (70.3%).

The addition of these services helps NHS organisations free up beds, reduce the risk of infection, and can help boost patient recovery, alongside contributing to financial savings both for the NHS and patients.

Same day emergency care includes medical, surgical or specialist treatment, such as paediatrics and gynaecology.

Sarah-Jane Marsh, National Director of Urgent and Emergency Care, said: “The expansion of same day emergency care services across the country is ensuring patients with a wide variety of conditions can access timely diagnosis, care and treatment, without admitting them to an inpatient bed - supporting better outcomes, experience and waiting times.

“By continuing to deliver on our urgent and emergency care recovery plan, despite the pressures of another challenging winter and the impact of industrial action, a further fall in ambulance response times, as well as the number of patients waiting for treatment is a testament to the continued hard work and dedication of NHS teams, who go above and beyond every day to deliver improvements for patients within the available resources.”

Health Minister, Helen Whately, said: “The expansion of same day emergency care services is benefitting patients across the country, with over 200,000 receiving care more quickly and avoiding overnight hospital stays in the past year. That has helped keep inpatient beds available for those who need them most.

“This supports the progress we have made through our urgent care recovery plan to cut A&E waits and ambulance response times so patients get the care they need, when and where they need it.”

North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust opened SDEC services in their West Cumberland Hospital in 2020 and the unit has helped to reduce the number of people who need to be admitted to that hospital by 30%.

This unit has since seen the addition of an ambulatory care area, procedure room and 23-hour assessment unit which sees 60-70% of patients avoid unnecessarily be admitted into the hospital by being treated and discharged from the SDEC unit once they’ve had their assessment.

King George Hospital in Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust has seen ongoing, sustained improvement in patient flow since opened their SDEC unit in June 2023 - the number of A&E patients seen within four hours dramatically improved by almost 50% (14,284 in Feb 2023 to 21,150 in Feb 2024), resulting in smoother ambulance handovers and improved ambulance response times.

Warrington and Halton Hospitals Trust did a pilot project with six GP practices to improve primary care access by enabling direct referrals into their SDEC, which was successful and has since been more widely rolled out.

Issued by NHS England April 11th 2024