Government slammed as watchdog lays bare NHS emergency admissions crisis

Posted On: 
2nd March 2018

The growing number of hospital emergency admissions poses a “serious challenge” to the financial position of the NHS, according to the public spending watchdog.

Emergency admissions have gone up as hospitals struggle to keep up, the NAO has said
PA Images

The National Audit Office say while the NHS has “done well” to manage the impact on hospitals as admissions have gone up over the last four years, meeting the rising challenge has left them “far from being under control”.

Those rushed to A&E cost the NHS £13.7bn in 2015-16, compared to £13.4bn in 2013-14 - a 2.2% increase in the cost in real terms.

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Overall emergency admissions grew by 24% from 2007-08 to 2016-17, with 24% of the 5.8 million admissions in the last year considered avoidable by NHS England.

The NAO added that increases in bed closures have ramped up the pressures on acute hospitals while bed occupancy has been increasing since at least 2010-11, reaching a seasonal peak of 91.4% in the fourth quarter of 2016-17.

Nearly four in five of the growth in admissions (79%) from 2013-14 to 2016-17 was caused by people who did not stay in hospital overnight.

The NAO say while there has been a slowdown in the growth of emergency admissions, there is "limited evidence" that NHS England programmes aimed at reducing them, such as the Better Care Fund, have contributed.

They add that NHS England “does not have good enough data” on the reasons for emergency admissions currently and therefore cannot pinpoint the reason for dramatic local variations across the country, and therefore improve.

Head of the NAO Amyas Morse said: “It is a problem for all of us that A&Es remain overloaded and a constant point of stress for patients and the NHS.

“A lot of effort is being made by NHS England. At the centre of this is increased ‘daycase’ treatment but the decision to stop methodical measurement of emergency readmissions a few years ago makes it difficult to understand whether daycase interventions achieve enduring results.”