Hospitals to act over casualty unit delays

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HOSPITALS are being forced to act over long delays for patients in accident and emergency units following intervention by the Government, writes Liz Hunt.

A number of high-profile cases in which patients have waited for more than 18 hours in appalling conditions before admission to a ward, has prompted the action by Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health.

A report by the Royal College of Nursing earlier this month said that nearly one-third of casualty departments had patients waiting overnight for a bed. Other patients have become 'lost' in the system and forgotten by medical and nursing staff. Mrs Bottomley said yesterday that it was 'unacceptable for patients to have to spend hours on trolleys in A & E departments, and particularly so if they are not treated with the dignity, courtesy and respect to which all patients are entitled'.

She has asked Sir Duncan Nichol, chief executive of the National Health Service, to urge health authorities to review admission and discharge arrangements. They must ensure that the hospitals they contract with can cope with admissions and fluctuating workloads. Patients should be given a bed on a suitable ward as soon as possible and that 'their dignity and comfort is maintained during any waiting period', Mrs Bottomley said.