Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement that NHS trusts across England are to receive £300 million to upgrade their facilities ahead of winter amid fears of a second wave of coronavirus, Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said:
“While any funding is helpful, there are limits to how this will actually be of benefit over the next few months.
“We know our units involved in acute and urgent care, whether they be emergency departments or our acute medical units and surgical assessment units, are all anxious about how they can see patients and keep them ‘covid secure’.
“This funding seems earmarked for the EDs but that will not help the others and we know that up to 40% of those people who need an acute medical bed do not actually enter the hospital via the ED.
“It is imperative that any work done in the EDs must not disadvantage these people when it comes to acute care.
“Emergency departments depend on flow into our assessment units and same day care areas and we need these to develop their safe infrastructure just as much as the EDs do but, in general, these areas are not seen centrally as such a priority.
“This is largely because a lot of the work they do, although just as vital, is “hidden“ from targets. Acute medical units and staff have been working under the pressures seen in our emergency departments and the staff and patients they treat need the same care and safety.
“Secondly, we know that staffing is as much of an issue as estate and this will not help that. Staff of all trades and grades are already working themselves into a state of semi-exhaustion and with the prospect of winter to come, potentially only weeks away, many are worried on the capacity they will have left to do their jobs.
“Lastly, and most pragmatically, the money is welcome but how do we think we can actually implement what would be building works in existing units whilst remaining safe and efficient – all before any rise in either covid or non covid patients which, if like last winter, may start before the end of October?”