The controversial decision to send patients suffering from the most severe injuries on longer ambulance journeys to hospital has saved more than 1,600 lives, a major new study has revealed.
Research released on Monday found that the move to designate some hospitals as major trauma units - and allow paramedics to bypass smaller, less-equipped hospitals - had improved the odds of survival for trauma victims in England by 19% since 2012.
Before that point, it was NHS policy to take seriously-ill patients to the nearest A&E unit.
Professor Chris Moran, NHS England’s clinical director for trauma care, said: “Patients suffering severe injury need to get to the right specialist centre staffed by experts, not simply the nearest hospital.
“We have all seen the terrible increase in knife crime in our cities, especially in London, and there is no doubt that the new trauma system has saved many lives as these patients receive blood transfusion and specialist surgery much quicker than before.”
Trauma remains the most common cause of death for people under the age of 40. The National Audit Office estimates that there are 20,000 major trauma cases a year, resulting in 5,400 deaths.
Experts from the Universities of Manchester, Leicester and Sheffield discovered that the reorganisation of NHS England had “probably” saved the lives of 1,656 major trauma patients since 2012.
The study, which looks at the outcomes of more than 110,000 patients admitted to 35 hospitals between 2008 and 2017, also found that patients now spend fewer days in hospital and have an improved quality of life after receiving critical care.
Extensive A&E reforms were introduced in 2010 after researchers discovered that almost 60% of major trauma patients were receiving care that was “less than good”.