SAM backs RCEM ‘winter-proofing’ campaign as concerns grow over demand

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has today launched a new campaign, Summer to Recover: Winter-Proofing Urgent and Emergency Care for 2021, which outlines a series of actions, recommendations and guidance to help ‘winter-proof’ the urgent and emergency care system.

Commenting on the campaign, Dr Nick Scriven, immediate past president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said: “Along with our colleagues at the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, the Society for Acute Medicine is concerned regarding how we are going to equip our teams to cope with the demands that will be put on them over the coming months. 

“While the government and NHS rightly has to focus on all those with pre-existing health problems who have not been able to access adequate care over the pandemic, they must not lose sight of the issues in urgent care that have been escalating year-on-year.

“Our acute medical units and same day emergency care (SDEC) areas are currently experiencing very high pressures not only with those who have reached their limit with their health but also those with worries brought on by the concerns around vaccination and possible side effects.

“We sympathise with our colleagues in primary care who must be struggling as it is not only their current workload and the questions being asked about returning to face-to face consultations they are dealing with, but also now being unable to 100% reassure people who are worried about side-effects without performing a blood test which requires specialist input and is really impacting on our SDECs.

“We urgently need work doing to quantify risks that have emerged and how we can tackle them, for example, infection-proofing areas for the foreseeable future without compromising the need of staff to care compassionately and efficiently for our patients.

“Any measures put in place must actually mean pressure in the system is decreased not simply moved from one area in the pathway to another which may be in a worse place to cope safely. Work must be collaborative rather than in isolation and carried out by people who can appreciate the ‘bigger picture’ so that people who need urgent and emergency care get it when they need it without imposing barriers on them accessing it.

“Over the summer months we need to tackle what we can – we cannot fix staffing in anything less than the medium term, but we can sort out our estate to ensure it meets a minimum standard with all repairs completed and the building work to enhance and make safe care for patients in place.

“This will cost money but without it happening to fix the front end, most of the initiatives needed to restart non-urgent work will flounder on bed capacity in our hospitals before Christmas.”