According to a new study from the University of Sheffield, closure of emergency departments (EDs) is not associated with an increase in mortality.
Researchers evaluated 5 EDs in England which were downgraded between 2009 and 2011. Several EDs have been closed or downgraded to daytime services recently owing to inadequate staffing and safety concerns.
The findings revealed that despite patients having to travel further to access emergency care due to the downgrade, there was no significant effect on upward or downward trends in mortality. The report further indicates that there may be other factors which can offset the negative effects caused by an increase in journey time to an ED (e.g. introduction of new specialised services or better care received at the alternative nearest hospital compared with the closed down ED).
Although mortality rates did not rise with ED closures, there were several negative consequences such as higher workload within areas with more ED closures and longer time for patients to reach the nearest hospital after the closure of their local ED. The closure of EDs did not seem to worsen the national trend towards increasing levels of attendances at EDs and emergency hospital admissions.
With further closures planned, these findings will provide the NHS and policymakers a crucial evidence for decision-making.