Emergency department capacity management: guidance

Guidance on developing a standard operating procedure to manage capacity and avoid crowding in the emergency departments.

1. This guidance

The Unscheduled Care Steering Group convened the Emergency Department Capacity Management Expert Group, which includes clinicians and managers (see Appendix), to review evidence and contribute their experience and expertise to the development of guidance to eliminate crowding in emergency departments ( EDs) in Scotland. The aim was to develop an escalation framework for implementation across NHS Scotland.

This guidance, produced by the steering group, proposes the development of a standard operating procedure to avoid crowding by proactively managing capacity in the ED within the context of the 6 Essential Actions to Improving Unscheduled Care. The guidance also includes escalation steps that can be taken when crowding occurs.

Although the dangers of crowding are most frequently faced in EDs, the processes outlined in this guidance apply to any area providing urgent care to patients arriving directly from the community, such as acute medical, surgical or paediatric units.


Email: Alistair Pollock, Alistair.Pollock@Gov.Scot

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