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Consultation response: Planning for winter pressure in accident and emergency departments

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has identified some of the causes and outline work being undertaken by development sites as part of the Future Hospital Programme which has gone some way to relieving pressure on accident and emergency (A&E) departments.

The RCP's submission responds to the House of Commons Health Committee inquiry to examine the steps that need to be taken to ensure that A&E departments are able to cope with the pressure they will face in the coming winter.


  • The causes of the problems facing emergency departments are complex and reflect wider pressures on the NHS and social care.
  • Hospital trusts are operating in an underfunded, under-doctored and overstretched health service which is resulting in increasing demand on A&E departments.
  • Research conducted by the RCP between 2014–2015 shows that 40% of advertised consultant vacancies remain unfilled. The most common reason is due to a lack of suitable candidates. This is significantly impacting on the ability of doctors to deliver high-quality care for patients.
  • Underfunding of social care, staffing shortages, and lack of hospital beds all contribute to delayed transfers of care which place increasing pressures on A&E departments.
  • The RCP, through its Future Hospital Programme, is exploring new and innovative ways of delivering care, thus alleviating pressures on the emergency department. This includes better coordination of care and treatment of patients to help them leave hospital as soon as possible and prevent unnecessary hospital admission as well as partnership working between hospital and community services to reduce delayed discharge. 


For more information please contact Methela Haque, RCP public affairs adviser: methela.haque@rcplondon.ac.uk.