Sir George Alberti, head of emergency care for the UK's National Health Service (NHS), said that improvements in this area over the past two years have transformed its emergency care performance so that "it is now the envy of the world." Speaking at a late-October breakfast reception at the home of Prime Minister Tony Blair, Alberti said that at the beginning of 2003, almost one-quarter of patients spent more than four hours in Accident and Emergency (A&E) units. Now, he said, "it is less than one in 20 patients, [and] in just over two months, it is set to be just one in 50 or less."

Alberti said the NHS's target for improvement in the A&E area "was groundbreaking and more ambitious than any international equivalent." He said that two years ago, a Commonwealth Institute report on emergency care included England as one of the countries in which waiting was a "fundamental challenge." – together with the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

At this year's 10th International Conference on Emergency Medicine, he said long waits were highlighted as a continuing issue around the world. "By contrast," Alberti added, "the NHS in England was hailed as an exemplary success." He said new investment in the A&E area "has led to more doctors and nurses than ever before, ensuring [that] people have swifter access to medical advice, swifter access to hospital beds and swifter access to specialist services."

In a report to Blair and Health Minister John Reid titled "Transforming Emergency Care," Alberti describes what he terms "a revolution in the delivery of emergency care for people in this country."

Main findings of the report include:

  • Despite continuing high demand for emergency services, people are receiving faster, quicker, personalized treatment and are more satisfied with their experience of A&E.
  • More doctors and nurses now work in emergency care and there has been a significant development in skill mix with nurses, paramedics and allied health professionals expanding their roles.
  • The NHS is moving toward providing a seamless service for patients, by bringing together services provided in the community and in local hospitals.

On a recent visit to study emergency care in England, Christopher Baggoley, chairman of Australia's National Institute of Clinical Studies, said, "The timeliness of care in English emergency departments is becoming the envy of the world."

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