New standards for ambulatory care

Same-day diagnostic tests for patients will “speed-up and improve patient care”, medical experts say

Thursday 11th April 2019

The UK Society for Acute Medicine (SAM) and the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) have produced new suggested standards to improve outpatient care in the NHS.

Ambulatory emergency care (AEC) is a service that provides same day (outpatient) emergency care to hospital patients where they can be assessed, diagnosed, treated and able to go home the same day, without being admitted overnight as an inpatient.

AEC is an important service which provides same day hospital care to patients. AEC units treat a wide variety of common conditions including headaches, diabetes, deep vein thrombosis and cellulitis,” explains Dr Mike Jones, director of training at the RCPE and consultant in acute medicine.

The standards are being launched at the University of Manchester tomorrow at an event marking the first time that the council of the RCPE has met in the city.

Dr Jones added: “These joint standards by the College and SAM aim to define the standards that should be adopted in Ambulatory emergency care units. We think that patients deserve to be seen by a doctor or a nurse promptly, and then to have the best treatment possible.

We believe that these standards will speed-up and improve patient care, and ensure that patients have clear advice on what to do if their condition deteriorates after being discharged from hospital. They should also reduce admissions and readmissions, free up valuable hospital beds for those patients who most need them and provide a much needed boost for our hard-pressed hospitals, the staff who work in them and the NHS as a whole.”

Patients should be initially seen within one hour of entering an AEC unit, according to the new standards, and should be initially examined by a doctor or nurse before diagnostic tests – such as an x-ray or ultrasound – are carried out. Staff will aim to get test results to patients on the same day.

The standards also recommend patients should have clear written instructions for if they feel they are deteriorating or if they wish to discuss any concerns with a staff member before their next scheduled visit.

Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine said: “Underpinning the process has been a real need for standards written by a group of experienced physicians who work in that area and are seen as subject ‘experts’.

This is the first time that standards for AEC units have been produced, and it is hoped that all providers, those writing health policy and those commissioning services will adopt them as soon as possible.”