Background Delays to timely admission from emergency departments (EDs) are known to harm patients.
Objective To assess and quantify the increased risk of death resulting from delays to inpatient admission from EDs, using Hospital Episode Statistics and Office of National Statistics data in England.
Methods A cross-sectional, retrospective observational study was carried out of patients admitted from every type 1 (major) ED in England between April 2016 and March 2018. The primary outcome was death from all causes within 30 days of admission. Observed mortality was compared with expected mortality, as calculated using a logistic regression model to adjust for sex, age, deprivation, comorbidities, hour of day, month, previous ED attendances/emergency admissions and crowding in the department at the time of the attendance.
Results Between April 2016 and March 2018, 26 738 514 people attended an ED, with 7 472 480 patients admitted relating to 5 249 891 individual patients, who constituted the study’s dataset. A total of 433 962 deaths occurred within 30 days. The overall crude 30-day mortality rate was 8.71% (95% CI 8.69% to 8.74%). A statistically significant linear increase in mortality was found from 5 hours after time of arrival at the ED up to 12 hours (when accurate data collection ceased) (p<0.001). The greatest change in the 30-day standardised mortality ratio was an 8% increase, occurring in the patient cohort that waited in the ED for more than 6 to 8 hours from the time of arrival.
Conclusions Delays to hospital inpatient admission for patients in excess of 5 hours from time of arrival at the ED are associated with an increase in all-cause 30-day mortality. Between 5 and 12 hours, delays cause a predictable dose–response effect. For every 82 admitted patients whose time to inpatient bed transfer is delayed beyond 6 to 8 hours from time of arrival at the ED, there is one extra death.
- emergency department
Data availability statement
All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. The study involved secondary analysis of an existing data set of anonymised data. HES data were made available by NHS Digital (©2018, reused with the permission of NHS Digital. All rights reserved). Publicly-available ONS data were also used.
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