Most patients who have attended an acute surgical assessment unit (ASAU) in Ireland have had a positive experience, a new survey has found.
An ASAU is a dedicated area where acutely ill surgical patients, who fulfill the criteria at triage, can be seen and assessed by a senior surgical decision maker. This allows for faster clinical decisions and shorter waiting times for patients.
It is envisaged that 40-60% of patients seen in an ASAU will receive care in the community without the need for admission to an acute hospital. This should improve the quality and safety of care for patients who have surgical emergencies.
There are currently six accredited ASAUs in the public health system. They are located at University Hospital Galway, the Mater Hospital in Dublin, St Luke's General Hospital in Kilkenny, University Hospital Limerick, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda and Cork University Hospital.
The survey was published by the National Clinical Programme in Surgery (NCPS), which is a strategic initiative between the HSE and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI).
It found that 95% of patients who received care in an ASAU were happy with their visit, while 98% agreed that the quality of care they received was satisfactory.
Some 89% were satisfied with the amount of time they had to wait to see a member of staff, 96% said they fully understood their plan, while 94% said they left the unit knowing the outcome.
According to NCPS co-lead, Prof Deborah McNamara, ASAUs "are reshaping the way that we deliver unscheduled surgical care to acutely unwell surgical patients".
"This gives patients faster access to expert surgical advice when they have a surgical emergency," she explained.
She noted that there are now 29 public Emergency Departments (EDs) open every day in Ireland, but these departments have "grown organically over time, with resources not always reflecting local population density or need".
"Most patients with an acute surgical condition do not need to be admitted to hospital, provided they have access to the right diagnostic tests and the right advice.
"By quickly identifying patients who are suitable to attend an ASAU when they arrive to the hospital, we can ensure they are reviewed by senior clinicians at a much earlier stage. This allows a more efficient patient experience, while freeing up resources in other areas of the hospital. The sickest patients will be seen by a consultant faster and patients who are fit to go home will spend less time in the hospital," Prof McNamara said.
The RCSI noted that the roll out of ASAUs to other hospitals is envisaged in the coming years as part of the HSE's plans to improve unscheduled care services. There is also scope to increase the range of conditions that can be assessed in ASAUs.
"The survey shows that patients treated in ASAUs are very happy with the care they receive. We hope that in the future more hospitals across the country will be able to provide this standard of care to their patients," Prof McNamara added.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.