Many emergency admissions to hospital are avoidable and many patients stay in hospital longer than is necessary. Improving the flow of patients through the system will be critical to the NHS's ability to cope with future winter pressures on urgent and emergency care services. At a time when NHS budgets are under significant pressure, the number of emergency admissions to hospitals is continuing to rise, albeit at a slower rate than in the past. More patients attending major A&E departments are now being admitted to hospital. In 2012-13, over a quarter of all patients attending major A&E departments were admitted, up from 19 per cent in 2003-04. The rise in emergency admissions is dominated by patients who stay less than two days (short-stay) in hospital. The main factors behind the increase in emergency admissions include the slowness with which the NHS has developed effective alternatives to admission to hospital. There are many local initiatives to prevent avoidable emergency admissions but limited evidence on what works. A lack of alignment between hospitals and community and local services in the hours they are open compromises efforts to avoid out-of- hours hospital admissions and prolongs the length of stay of inpatients. Among the NAO's recommendations is the need for both short-and long-term strategies to address staffing shortages in A&E. The Department and NHS England should also address barriers to seven-day working in hospitals, such as the consultants' contract, which gives consultants the right to refuse to work outside 7am to 7pm, Monday to Friday
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