The front-line general surgery consultant as a new model of emergency care

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Abstract

INTRODUCTION

Emergency general surgery services in England are undergoing rapid structural change with the aim of improving care. In our centre, the key issues identified were high numbers of admissions, inappropriate referrals, prolonged waiting times, delayed senior input and poor patient satisfaction. A new model was launched in January 2015 to address these issues: the surgical triage unit (STU). This study assesses the success of the new service.

METHODS

All emergency general surgical admissions during a five-month period before introduction of the STU were compared with those of a comparable five-month period after its introduction. Process, clinical and patient experience outcomes were assessed to identify improvement.

RESULTS

Attendance fell from 3,304 patients in the 2014 cohort to 2,830 in the 2015 cohort. During the 2015 study period, 279 more patients were discharged on the same day. Resource requirement fell by 2,635 bed days (23%). The number of true surgical emergencies remained consistent. Rates for reattendance (7.8% for 2014 vs 8.1% for 2015) and readmission (5.7% for 2014 vs 5.7% for 2015) showed no significant difference. Patient experience data demonstrated a significant improvement in both net promoter score (64.1 vs 82.2) and number of complaints (34 vs 5). Clinical outcomes for low risk procedures remained similar. Emergency laparotomy in-hospital mortality fell (11.4% vs 10.3%) despite preoperative risk stratification suggesting a risk burden that was significantly higher than the national average.

CONCLUSIONS

This novel model of emergency general surgery provision has improved clinical efficiency, patient satisfaction and outcomes. We encourage other units to consider similar programmes of service improvement.

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