Response to winter pressures in acute services: analysis from the Winter Society for Acute Medicine Benchmarking Audit

Catherine Atkin, Thomas Knight, Chris Subbe, Mark Holland, Tim Cooksley, Daniel Lasserson

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BACKGROUND: There is increased demand for urgent and acute services during the winter months, placing pressure on acute medicine services caring for emergency medical admissions. Hospital services adopt measures aiming to compensate for the effects of this increased pressure. This study aimed to describe the measures adopted by acute medicine services to address service pressures during winter.

METHODS: A survey of acute hospitals was conducted during the Society for Acute Medicine Benchmarking Audit, a national day-of-care audit, on 30th January 2020. Survey questions were derived from national guidance. Acute medicine services at 93 hospitals in the United Kingdom completed the survey, evaluating service measures implemented to mitigate increased demand, as well as markers of increased pressure on services.

RESULTS: All acute internal medicine services had undertaken measures to prepare for increased demand, however there was marked variation in the combination of measures adopted. 81.7% of hospitals had expanded the number of medical inpatient beds available. 80.4% had added extra clinical staff. The specialty of the physicians assigned to provide care for extra inpatient beds varied. A quarter of units had reduced beds available for providing Same Day Emergency Care on the day of the survey. Patients had been waiting in corridors within the emergency medicine department in 56.3% of units.

CONCLUSION: Winter pressure places considerable demand on acute services, and impacts the delivery of care. Although increased pressure on acute hospital services during winter is widely recognised, there is considerable variation in the approach to planning for these periods of increased demand.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2021. The Author(s).


  • Benchmarking
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Hospitalization
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Medical Audit
  • United Kingdom


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