Managing access block

Aust Health Rev. 2002;25(4):59-68. doi: 10.1071/ah020059.


There is pessimism regarding the ability of the Acute Health Sector to manage access block for emergency and elective patients. Melbourne Health suffered an acute bed crisis in 2001 resulting in record ambulance diversions and emergency department (ED) delays. We conducted an observational study to reduce access block for emergency patients whilst maintaining elective throughput at Melbourne Health. This involved a clinician-led taskforce using previously proven principles for organisational change to implement 51 actions to improve patient access over a three-month period. The primary outcome measures were ambulance diversion, emergency patients waiting more than 12 hours for an inpatient bed, elective throughput and theatre cancellations. Despite a reduction in multi-day bed numbers all primary objectives were met, ambulance diversion decreased to minimal levels, 12-hour waits decreased by 40% and elective throughput was maintained. Theatre cancellations were also minimised. We conclude that access block can be improved by clinician-led implementation of proven process improvements over a short time frame. The ability to sustain change over the longer term requires further study.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Admitting Department, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Admitting Department, Hospital / standards
  • Ambulances
  • Bed Occupancy
  • Elective Surgical Procedures / statistics & numerical data
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Accessibility / organization & administration*
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Leadership
  • Management Quality Circles
  • Medical Staff, Hospital
  • Observation
  • Organizational Innovation
  • Patient Transfer / statistics & numerical data
  • Total Quality Management / organization & administration*
  • Victoria