OBJECTIVE: To study the potential of a short stay ward attached to an accident and emergency (A&E) department to improve care and reduce admissions to hospital by enabling elderly patients to be monitored closely for up to 24 h before being formally admitted to hospital or discharged home. Patients admitted to the short stay ward were those who appeared to need only a brief period of assessment or treatment. METHODS: The medical records of all patients aged 65 years and above admitted to the short stay ward over a nine month period (April to December 1993, inclusive) were reviewed. RESULTS: 13% of all the patients over 65 attending A&E were admitted to the A&E ward. Of patients over 65 who were admitted to hospital, 20% were first admitted to the A&E ward. There were 502 admissions to the short stay ward of patients aged 65 years and above, who constituted 38% of the total admissions to that ward. Admitting these selected patients to the short stay ward allowed 71% to be discharged home, usually within 24 h, rather than being formally admitted to hospital. CONCLUSIONS: The addition of a short stay ward can shorten the hospital stay for selected elderly patients and reduce the demand for inpatient hospital beds. This ward also improves the quality of care to elderly patients attending the A&E department.
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