‘Revolutionary’ A&E changes to slash waiting times in Huddersfield

A series of “revolutionary” changes have been implemented at a Huddersfield hospital, which are said to be drastically cutting waiting times, as well as saving lives.

A&E doctors at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital have overhauled the way in which they work, and have said that the changes have already cut queues for treatment in half.

A trial of the new methods – which involve the most senior doctors seeing incoming patients immediately rather than several hours after they arrive – has proven to reduce the time patients spent on the A&E ward by several hours. Following the initial successful trial last year, the measures were rolled out part-time, and doctors now hope to launch them full-time in order to build on the success.

Mark Davies, clinical head of A&E at at the Calderdale and Hudddersfield NHS Trust, said that, on average, patients who now arrived at the A&E department, were seen by a doctor and left within one hour. This is compared to the previous two hours on average that was recorded when the triage system was still in use.

He confirmed that the system would mean that a consultant will see every single patient as soon as they arrive, which would help to ensure a better outcome.

“Things happen much quicker simply because you’re getting a senior decision maker at the front end. This also unclogs the department when it’s overloaded,” Dr Davies said.

Other key measures which have been implemented in a bid to slash waiting times for patients include the new handheld bedside blood-testing machines. These ensure that patients can be rapidly assessed as the devices lower the waiting period for crucial results from more than an hour to a mere two minutes.

Doctors making use of both the new working methods and the blood-testing machines have also reported that the system ensures “better outcomes” for the most serious patients, and, as such, are helping to lower the amount of deaths. Indeed, initial figures indicated that mortality rates dropped by 85 per cent as a result of the new system.

Dr Davies said that, while the majority of clinicians can tell who is very ill and who is not that serious, senior doctors are “much better at spotting people who are a bit sick but getting worse,” so by seeing them straight away, the potential for patients to go quickly downhill is minimised.

The new way of working has the potential to completely eradicate queues if enough senior doctors were used, hospital chiefs have said. As the system means consultants are able to see up to 10 patients each hour, three times what they were able to do under the previous system, the potential for waiting times to spiral upwards is far less.

Dr Davies spelt out the end goal for the new methods, which is to ensure that at least 50 per cent of the patients in A&E are discharged within an hour-and-a-quarter, with 80 per cent of them either discharged or admitted within two hours.

This should ensure greater availability of beds for incoming patients who require them. Those patients who are in need of a bed should be given one in less than 30 minutes under the plans.