BGS responds to BBC news article ‘A&E is absolute chaos - spent 15 hours on a trolley'

08 December 2022

Today, 8 December 2022, the British Geriatrics Society (BGS) responded to an article published on the BBC news website highlighting increased waiting times faced by older people in emergency departments.

Figures cited in the article via NHS England show that nearly 40% of emergency department patients who need hospital admission face a delay of four hours or more waiting for a bed to be found, and around 10% are waiting over 12 hours. The article states that similar pressures are being reported in other parts of the UK.

Professor Adam Gordon, President of the British Geriatrics Society, commented:

Emergency departments across the country are in crisis and older people are clearly among those most affected by this. It is unacceptable, and very often dangerous, for older people to be in ambulances or on trolleys for long periods of time waiting for care.

When older people arrive in emergency departments, it is vital they are assessed quickly as their condition can deteriorate rapidly. Specialist senior clinicians such as consultant geriatricians, advanced practice nurses and allied health professionals should be available in the emergency department so that older people can be directed to services such as Same Day Emergency Care and Frailty Assessment Units. This allows patients to be assessed, diagnosed and treated without being admitted to a ward and, if it is safe for them to do so,  to return home on the same day.

While this BBC article focuses on services provided by emergency departments, it is important to remember that not all older people who fall need to be admitted to hospital. Falls prevention and management services delivered by paramedics or other local healthcare teams can help to avoid someone being taken to hospital unnecessarily. Other initiatives provide urgent short-term care in an older person’s home or care home, such as Urgent Community Response. Hospital at Home or Virtual Ward services also provide hospital- level care in a home environment.

Some older patients will need to be admitted to hospital and, if so, it is essential that they are transferred to the appropriate ward as quickly as possible and then discharged in a timely fashion. Services must be available to provide any ongoing care and rehabilitation that older people need to facilitate their discharge as soon as they are ready.

Only when these aspects of the wider health and care system and the workforce shortages are addressed will we see any significant reduction in ambulance and trolley waiting times during the winter months.”