Background: Service reconfiguration of inpatient services in a hospital includes complete and partial closure of all emergency inpatient facilities. The “natural experiment” of service reconfiguration may give insight into drivers for emergency admissions to hospital. This study addressed the question does the prevalence of emergency admission to hospital for children change after reconfiguration of inpatient services? Methods: There were five service reconfigurations in Scottish hospitals between 2004 and 2018 where emergency admissions to one “reconfigured” hospital were halted (permanently or temporarily) and directed to a second “adjacent” hospital. The number of emergency admissions (standardised to /1000 children in the regional population) per month to the “reconfigured” and “adjacent” hospitals was obtained for five years prior to reconfiguration and up to five years afterwards. An interrupted time series analysis considered the association between reconfiguration and admissions across pairs comprised of “reconfigured” and “adjacent” hospitals, with adjustment for seasonality and an overall rising trend in admissions. Results: Of the five episodes of reconfiguration, two were immediate closure, two involved closure only to overnight admissions and one with overnight closure for a period and then closure. In “reconfigured” hospitals there was an average fall of 117 admissions/month [95% CI 78, 156] in the year after reconfiguration compared to the year before, and in “adjacent” hospitals admissions rose by 82/month [32, 131]. Across paired reconfigured and adjacent hospitals, in the months post reconfiguration, the overall number of admissions to one hospital pair slowed, in another pair admissions accelerated, and admission prevalence was unchanged in three pairs. After reconfiguration in one hospital, there was a rise in admissions to a third hospital which was closer than the named “adjacent” hospital. Conclusions: There are diverse outcomes for the number of emergency admissions post reconfiguration of inpatient facilities. Factors including resources placed in the community after local reconfiguration, distance to the “adjacent” hospital and local deprivation may be important drivers for admission pathways after reconfiguration. Policy makers considering reconfiguration might consider a number of factors which may be important determinants of admissions post reconfiguration.
We are grateful to the following individuals who kindly provided admission data: Toby Tipper and Helen Rhodes (NHS Lothian), Graham Stewart and John Mullen (NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde), Carole Angus and Donald Macgregor (NHS Tayside) and Rochelle Morgan (NHS Grampian).
Availability of data and materials
The dataset used and analysed during the current study is available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.