What does ideal urgent and emergency care system look like?
Background Policies aimed at diverting care from EDs to alternative services have not been successful in reducing ED attendances and have contributed to confusion for service users when making care-seeking decisions. It is important that service users are at the heart of decision making to ensure new services meet the needs of those who will be accessing them. In this study, service users were encouraged to think freely about the desirable qualities of an ideal urgent and emergency care (UEC) system.
From September to February 2019, an open inductive methodology was used to conduct focus groups with service users who had used UK UEC services within the previous year. Service users that had contact with NHS111, ambulance service, General Practice out-of-hours, minor injuries unit, walk-in centre or ED were purposively sampled and stratified into the following groups: (1) 18–45 years; (2)≥75 years; (3) adults with young children; (4) adults with long-term conditions. Focus groups were structured around experiences of accessing UEC services and perspectives of an ‘ideal’ UEC system.
30 service users took part in the study, across four focus groups. The ideal UEC system centred around three themes: a simplified UEC system (easier to understand and a single-point of access); more ‘joined-up’ UEC services and better communication between health staff and patients.
Desirable qualities of an ideal UEC system from a service user perspective related to simplifying access for example, through a single point of access system where health professionals decide the appropriate service required and improving continuity of care through better integration of UEC services. Service users value reassurance and communication from health professionals about care pathways and care choices, and this helps service users feel more in control of their healthcare journey.