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How local partnerships to improve urgent and emergency care have impacted delayed transfers of care from hospitals in England: an analysis based on a synthetic control estimation method

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JournalBMJ Open
DateAccepted/In press - 5 Jan 2022
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 7 Feb 2022
Issue number12
Early online date7/02/22
Original languageEnglish


Objectives Patients should be discharged from hospital when they are medically fit. However, discharges are often delayed for non-medical reasons including access to social care. One aim of local health and social care partnerships to improve urgent and emergency care in England (known as urgent and emergency care (UEC) vanguards) was to improve integration of health and social care, which could lead to fewer delays. Consequently, we aimed to assess the impact of UEC vanguards on delayed discharges from hospital (delayed transfers of care (DTOC)) in England.

Design Using a synthetic control estimation method 29 local authorities (LAs) that were UEC vanguards partners were averaged into a single ‘treated’ unit and compared with a unit created using data from LAs that were not UEC vanguards partners to estimate the impact of UEC vanguards on DTOC. Sensitivity analysis included fixed effects panel regressions and various placebo tests.

Setting 150 LAs in England (excluding city of London and Isles of Scilly); 29 LAs were partners in UEC vanguards between August 2015 and March 2018.

Primary outcome measure Quarterly data on days of DTOC at LA level for the period 2010–2017.

Results Synthetic control estimation showed a large difference in DTOC days between UEC vanguards partner LAs compared with those that were not, with on average 23.7% lower DTOC per quarter (491 DTOC days per quarter). Fixed effect panel regressions found DTOC rates lower by 43.1% (99% CI 13.8% to 72.4%) in UEC partner LAs after the start of the vanguards programme. We found no indication of UEC partner LAs having lower DTOC rates prior to initiation of vanguards.

Conclusions The evidence indicates a sizeable statistically significant impact of UEC vanguards on DTOC; however, more research is required to explain the underlying reasons for this relationship.

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