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Shake-up urged for emergency wards

A major shake-up of hospital emergency services with faster admission times, and round-the-clock availability of operating theatres is urgently needed, an independent panel of experts said yesterday.

Their report raises new fears that pressure on hospitals to meet Government targets on waiting lists is affecting standards of acute and emergency care in some hospitals.

Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health, has been embarrassed by a succession of "horror stories" of patients left on trolleys in hospital corridors for up to 24 hours before admission for conditions needing urgent treatment.

A survey of around 8,000 urgent admissions to 30 hospitals nationwide was carried out by the Clinical Standards Advisory Group, set up four years ago to advise health ministers on the emergency care in NHS hospitals, and to recommend improvements.

The CSAG recommends in its report improved monitoring of emergency patients, 80 per cent of whom should be seen by a doctor within an hour, or 90 per cent admitted within four hours if their condition warrants it.

Tom Sackville, Health Minister, commenting on the report, said: "There is scope for improvement and we have already implemented a number of initiatives which address some of the areas highlighted in the report."