Headlines: August 3rd, 2001

The Royal College of Physicians and the NHS Confederation are to work up radical ideas about the future of hospitals as we know them.The group will tackle the one of the biggest problems faced by the NHS – the organisation and delivery of acute emergency services in hospitals.

The two professional groups say that changes in medicine, in workforce and in the expectations of patients mean that the old way of delivering health care needs fundamental change. Many recent developments have helped, but in the long term the only solution is a radical rethink of how these services are delivered.

Both agree that there needs to be a quantum shift away from our current ideas about the role of the traditional NHS District General Hospital. One model involves a small number of 24 hour highly specialised emergency centres with a large number of triage centres based in the community supported by community hospitals. Other, more radical options will be explored by the group.

The new alliance has been set up because both groups agree that radical change is required, not just refinements of the current system.

The NHS Confederation is the voice of NHS management. The Royal College of Physicians is responsible for the postgraduate education and training of physicians in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The RCP has produced several reports on issues surrounding acute medicine and held a one-day conference on this issue in July.