Emerg Med J. 2021 Aug 4:emermed-2021-211229. doi: 10.1136/emermed-2021-211229. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: We investigate whether admission from a consultant-led ED is associated with ED occupancy or crowding and inpatient (bed) occupancy.
METHODS: We used general additive logistic regression to explore the relationship between the probability of an ED patient being admitted, ED crowding and inpatient occupancy levels. We adjust for patient, temporal and attendance characteristics using data from 13 English NHS Hospital Trusts in 2019. We define quintiles of occupancy in ED and for four types of inpatients: emergency, overnight elective, day case and maternity.
RESULTS: Compared with periods of average occupancy in ED, a patient attending during a period of very high (upper quintile) occupancy was 3.3% less likely (relative risk (RR) 0.967, 95% CI 0.958 to 0.977) to be admitted, whereas a patient arriving at a time of low ED occupancy was 3.9% more likely (RR 1.039 95% CI 1.028 to 1.050) to be admitted. When the number of overnight elective, day-case and maternity inpatients reaches the upper quintile then the probability of admission from ED rises by 1.1% (RR 1.011 95% CI 1.001 to 1.021), 3.8% (RR 1.038 95% CI 1.025 to 1.051) and 1.0% (RR 1.010 95% CI 1.001 to 1.020), respectively. Compared with periods of average emergency inpatient occupancy, a patient attending during a period of very high emergency inpatient occupancy was 1.0% less likely (RR 0.990 95% CI 0.980 to 0.999) to be admitted and a patient arriving at a time of very low emergency inpatient occupancy was 0.8% less likely (RR 0.992 95% CI 0.958 to 0.977) to be admitted.
CONCLUSIONS: Admission thresholds are modestly associated with ED and inpatient occupancy when these reach extreme levels. Admission thresholds are higher when the number of emergency inpatients is particularly high. This may indicate that riskier discharge decisions are taken when beds are full. Admission thresholds are also high when pressures within the hospital are particularly low, suggesting the potential to safely reduce avoidable admissions.