Hospital services must be redesigned and reorganised and out-of-hours access to primary care improved, to avoid demand overwhelming acute care, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has urged.
In a hard-hitting report entitled Hospitals on the edge?Time for Action the RCP warns acute care is on the brink of collapse due to an ageing population and hospital buildings, services and staff not equipped to deal with people with multiple, complex needs, including dementia. It states there are a third fewer general and acute beds than 25 years ago, but that the last decade alone has seen a 37 per cent increase in emergency admissions.
Redesigning services to meet patients' needs may include consolidating hospital services and hospital closures and reorganising care, so patients can access expert services seven days a week. These changes must be clinically-led, the RCP says.
Meanwhile primary care must be improved so that patients can see their GP out of hours, relieving the existing pressure on A&E services.
The report adds that all health professionals must promote patient-centred care and treat people with dignity at all times.