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Monday 24th October 2016

'Lives at risk' from A&E closures

20th August 2007

A study has claimed that closing local A&E services could endanger the lives of patients by increasing the distance they have to travel to receive care.


The research, published in the Emergency Medicine Journal, looked at 10,000 cases spanning four ambulance providers during 1997 to 2001. Researchers saw that the number of deaths increased according to the number of miles travelled by patients needing treatment.

The team, from the Medical Care Research Unit at the University of Sheffield, stated that their study proved it was necessary for further research to be conducted into "reconfiguration".

The team claimed that the government is planning the closure of smaller, local A&E departments. Services will be redirected to larger regional centres or existing departments will become minor injury units.

The patients in the study experienced serious problems such as chest pain and respiratory conditions. The average journey each patient travelled for treatment was about 3 miles.

644 of the patients did not survive. Their risk of death increased by 1% for every 6 miles travelled.

Patients who had breathing problems were shown to have the highest risk of death - 13% if they had a journey of between 6 and 12 miles and 20% if they travelled 12 miles or over.

"Our data suggest that any changes that increase journey distance to hospital for all emergency patients may lead to an increase in mortality for a small number of patients with life-threatening medical emergencies, unless care is improved," the team wrote.

The government's director for primary care, Dr David Colin Thome, said that changes had been made recently to ambulance services which the study did not reflect.

"Local casualty," he said, "will still be available."

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