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Meeting the four‐hour deadline in an A&E department

Julie Eatock (Department of Information Systems, Computing and Mathematics, Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK)
Malcolm Clarke (Department of Information Systems, Computing and Mathematics, Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK)
Claire Picton (A&E Department, Hillingdon Hospital, Uxbridge, UK)
Terry Young (Department of Information Systems, Computing and Mathematics, Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Article publication date: 1 June 2011

1580

Abstract

Purpose

Accident and emergency (A&E) departments experience a secondary peak in patient length of stay (LoS) at around four hours, caused by the coping strategies used to meet the operational standards imposed by government. The aim of this paper is to build a discrete‐event simulation model that captures the coping strategies and more accurately reflects the processes that occur within an A&E department.

Design/methodology/approach

A discrete‐event simulation (DES) model was used to capture the A&E process at a UK hospital and record the LoS for each patient. Input data on 4,150 arrivals over three one‐week periods and staffing levels was obtained from hospital records, while output data were compared with the corresponding records. Expert opinion was used to generate the pathways and model the decision‐making processes.

Findings

The authors were able to replicate accurately the LoS distribution for the hospital. The model was then applied to a second configuration that had been trialled there; again, the results also reflected the experiences of the hospital.

Practical implications

This demonstrates that the coping strategies, such as re‐prioritising patients based on current length of time in the department, employed in A&E departments have an impact on LoS of patients and therefore need to be considered when building predictive models if confidence in the results is to be justified.

Originality/value

As far as the authors are aware this is the first time that these coping strategies have been included within a simulation model, and therefore the first time that the peak around the four hours has been analysed so accurately using a model.

Keywords

Citation

Eatock, J., Clarke, M., Picton, C. and Young, T. (2011), "Meeting the four‐hour deadline in an A&E department", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 25 No. 6, pp. 606-624. https://doi.org/10.1108/14777261111178510

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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