Better data is vital to solve A&E problems

Article on developments with data on emergency care from the Guardian Healthcare Network.

A&E attendance has reached record levels – but commissioners and providers don’t know enough about this surge in demand to properly plan and fund services. Digitisation of healthcare is moving apace but when our hospitals capture information about emergency care, they rely on a dataset developed in the early 1980s. It seems odd in an age which aspires to delivering integrated care and digital interoperability that we’re making do with a functional but pretty basic dataset. The accident and emergency commissioning data set does a good job of providing us with the key information required to benchmark A&E performance, such as the four-hour waiting time standard. Trusts’ efforts to meet the 95% goal were front page news for the first few months of this year, when A&E departments across the country came close to breaking point. But richer data could give us the opportunity to better design and deliver more joined-up care.

Dr Cliff Mann, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, has been a strong advocate for A&E reform. He has also called for more co-located urgent care centres to allow out-of-hours GPs to attend to the estimated 2.1 million patients who turn up at A&E but who don’t need emergency department care. Central to the Royal College’s vision is a new dataset – known as the emergency care data set (ECDS) – which will capture, for the first time, the true complexity and detail of A&E attendances, so we can start to understand where all this additional demand is coming from and how we might manage it better. (Extract - see here for full article).

About the Emergency Care Data Set

The Emergency Care Data Set Information Standard Notice Project aims to develop and implement a national data set for emergency care that will provide a consistent and improved level of information from Emergency Departments (EDs) across England by replacing the existing Accident & Emergency Commissioning Data Set (CDS type 010) with a data set that can properly capture and represent the full extent and granularity of ED activity. This will facilitate improved healthcare commissioning, effective delivery of healthcare strategy and policy, and enable an accurate understanding of the cost and value of emergency care. The Emergency Care Data Set was out for public consultation from the 26 May to the 7 July. Responses are now being reviewed and work has begun on refining the data set further with input from the NHS Data Dictionary and Modelling team.

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