Ambulance Times Tuesday, 21 Aug 2007 09:45
Government plans to shut some accident and emergency (A&E) departments could put lives at risk by lengthening patients' ambulance journeys, a new report has warned.
Researchers from Sheffield University found that seriously ill patients were more likely to die the longer their ambulance journey takes.
For every 10km travelled, the risk of death rose by one per cent.
The findings have questioned government proposals to close some local A&E departments in favour of fewer, more specialised centres.
Writing in the Emergency Medicine Journal, the researchers argue that closing local emergency departments could increase the number of deaths of a small number of patients.
They studied over 10,000 life-threatening calls to four ambulance services in England in rural, urban and mixed areas made between 1997 and 2001.
People with breathing problems had a 13 per cent chance of dying if the distance to hospital was between 10km and 20km and a 20 per cent chance if the distance was 20km or more.
"Increased journey distance to hospital seems to be associated with increased risk of mortality, even after potential confounding by illness severity is taken into account," the researchers said.
"This means that, other things being equal, closing local EDs [emergency departments] could result in an increase in mortality for a small number of patients with life-threatening emergencies, who have to travel further as a result."
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