Hospitals told to ‘free up beds’ by expanding ambulatory care services

Half a million more patients will be diagnosed and treated before being discharged the same day.

Matt Bodell
10 March 2019
ambulatory care service

Every major hospital will provide urgent same day services to improve care for patients and cut unnecessary admissions by next winter.

NHS England has announced plans to expand ambulatory care service in order to free up beds on hospital wards, reduce pressure on emergency departments and ensure healthcare staff can focus on those who need the most urgent care.


Healthcare bosses believe that around half a million more patients a year across England could be assessed, diagnosed, treated and allowed to return home without the need for an overnight stay.

Ambulance services, out-of-hours GPs and Urgent Treatment Centres will also work more closely together as part of a 24/7 Integrated Urgent Care Service, which patients will be able to access through the NHS111 phone line or online service.

Hospitals will be measured on their success in reducing overnight admissions.

Reducing overnight admissions.

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS in England, said: “For seriously ill people a hospital stay is often unavoidable, but we know that too many people – particularly the frail and elderly – are ending up trapped on wards for days on end.


“With modern technology we can now offer many more ill patients access to new rapid tests and optimal treatments from senior doctors all in the same day and avoid admission. That’s more convenient for our patients, and more efficient for the NHS.

“That’s why the NHS Long Term Plan will make sure that more people every year get the right care fast, meaning they could be safely back at home on the same day, and at the same time more hospital beds can be freed up for those who need them most.”

Reducing hospital admissions.

Dr Nick Scriven, President of the Society of Acute Medicine, said: “Same Day Emergency Care is an essential part of emergency and urgent care for individuals in that it avoids admission overnight into a hospital bed with all the risks and hazards that entails for conditions that can be treated equally as effectively with the patient benefiting from returning to their own bed overnight.

“Acute Medicine specialists provide a large proportion of this type of service and in our recent benchmarking survey (SAMBA) on average just over 20% of patients presenting for urgent medical care were seen in this setting, with over 80% being discharged on the same day.”


As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, all hospitals which have a full Emergency Department will be required to step up efforts to ensure that they provide this service, with the aim of a third of patients who require an emergency admission being able to return home the same day, up from a fifth currently.

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