Background In recent years a number of Emergency Departments (EDs) in England have closed, or been replaced by a lower acuity facility such as an Urgent Care Centre. With further re-organisation of EDs expected, the ‘closED’ study aimed to provide research evidence to inform the public, NHS, and policymakers when considering future closures. Our aim was to understand the impact of ED closure on populations and emergency care providers, the first study to do so in England. In this session I will focus on the impact on the ambulance service.
Methods We undertook a controlled interrupted time series analysis assessing changes in ambulance service activity, following the closure of Type 1 EDs in England. Data was sourced data from Ambulance service computer-assisted dispatch (CAD) records. The resident catchment populations of five EDs, closed between 2009 and 2011, were selected for analysis. Five control areas were also selected. The primary ambulance outcome measures were: ambulance service incident volumes and mean ‘call to destination’ time.
Results There was some evidence of a large increase of 13.9% [95% confidence interval (CI) 3.5% to 24.4%] in the total number of emergency ambulance incidents compared with the control areas. There was an increase of 3.9 minutes (95% CI 2.2 to 5.6 minutes) in the meantime taken from a 999 ‘red’ call being answered to a patient arriving at hospital.
Conclusions Given such major reorganisation of emergency and urgent care we might expect some changes in emergency and urgency care activity. Our study found some changes in the ambulance service measures. The increase in emergency ambulance incidents, over and above the increase in the control area, suggests that the closure of the EDs in our study may have contributed to an additional increase in workload within the ambulance services in these areas.
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