The number of emergency admissions to hospital increased by 7.1% on average in 2014/15, NHS England board papers have revealed.
The highest rises in the number of admissions were seen in the higher age groups, with increases of 8.4% among 65- to 74-year olds, 7.3% among those aged 75-84 and 9% in the 85+ age group.
The statistics also revealed an increase in A&E attendances of 3.1% among the general population, with higher incidences in the older age groups. Compared with 2013/14, attendance rates went up by 5.7% among 65- to 74-year-olds, 5.1% in the 75-84 bracket and by 6.5% for over-85s.
NHS England further noted that the proportion of A&E attendees who are admitted to hospital had increased across all age groups.
The paper said: ‘Growth in overall demand for A&E services is often cited by NHS leaders as the most significant contributory issue and attendances and admissions remain above the levels seen in previous years for Q3. It is only in Q4 that we have seen these stabilising in line with previous years’ performance.
‘Year on year growth in emergency admissions is 2.1% on a 13-week rolling average (i.e. last 13 weeks compared to same period a year ago), with the underlying trend on a rolling 52-week average at 4.1 %. Year on year growth in attendances is 1.5% on a 13-week rolling average with the underlying trend over 52 weeks at 3.1 % [to week ending 8 March 2015].’
It added: ‘Data show that the recent growth in A&E attendances has been stronger in older age groups… Emergency admissions data shows a similar picture in that the growth in admissions has been stronger in older age groups, although not as distinctly as that for attendances.’
However, despite the seemingly downbeat statistics, the GPC said it was ‘far too early’ to conclude this was linked to a failure of the avoiding unplanned admissions DES, which pays GP practices to case-manage older patients in a bid to prevent unplanned admissions to hospital.
GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse: ‘In many areas systems are only just in place and it’s far too simplistic to assume that one initiative like this taken in isolation will be able to tackle the complex and longstanding problems many of our most vulnerable patients live with.
‘We should also not forget that the DES itself did not bring any new resources into general practice but simply shifted money from one part of the contract to another, and what we really need is significant and sustained investment into general practice to enable practices to expand their teams to meet the growing needs of their complex patients in a much better way.
‘The DES has though in some areas acted as a catalyst for new investment into community teams working alongside practices, but again it is too early to make a judgement about this impact.’
The news comes as the specification for the avoiding unplanned admissions DES for 2014/15 was also published today, revealing that NHS England may spend £500,000 on a new survey of the 2% cohort of patients targeted.