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Trauma care delays due to targets

18th September 2008

Targets are preventing adequate care being provided to some of the most severely injured patients using the NHS in England.

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Trauma patients such as those badly injured in road accidents, were facing delays to surgery because transfers to hospitals with specialist trauma teams were being delayed by local targets.

The Royal College of Surgeons and British Orthopaedic Association point out that prompt surgery for complex injuries was essential.

Treatment within seven days, including the initial stabilising of the fracture followed by the final fixing and setting a few days later, would see 80% of patients recover with excellent results, they said.

But after 10 days that figure dropped to 50% and by three weeks it stood at almost zero. The most recent research indicates an average of 10-20 days.

Targets such as ensuring local patients are out of A&E within four hours and that planned elective surgery cases are not cancelled often mean patients with serious injuries are marooned in an inappropriate hospital.

Professor Chris Moran of the British Orthopaedic Association said: "The current system does not work. Patients are frequently denied access because the units are already full and are instead stuck on hidden waiting lists until a bed becomes free.

"These patients are not a priority as units are under no obligation to take on emergency cases from another hospital."

The Department of Health said it recognised that trauma services fell short of what should be expected but a specialist 'trauma tsar' was being appointed to lead nationally on trauma policy.

 

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