Objective: In an effort to reduce waiting times and improve the performance of the clinical indicator waiting time relative to triage category, a rapid assessment team was implemented.
Methods: The rapid assessment team consists of the rapid assessment team doctor and triage nurse. The rapid assessment team ensured, wherever possible, that patients were medically assessed prior to expiration of the waiting time appropriate to their National Triage Scale. Waiting time performance indicators, median waiting time and length of stay during the 3 months the rapid assessment team was operative were compared with the same period 1 year before.
Results: During the 3 month period where the rapid assessment team was operative, 59.0% of patients (n = 5877) were seen within accepted time standards and the median waiting time was 32 min. This compared with 39.1% (n = 3901) and 50 min, respectively, in the same period 1 year before (P < 0.001). There was no significant difference in median length of stay (3.2 h for both, P = 0.18). Improvements in waiting times occurred in all triage categories except category 1. Due to a lack of resources and funds, the rapid assessment team was discontinued on 4 October 1997.
Conclusions: The rapid assessment team reduces doctor waiting times. Departments considering implementing a rapid assessment team should ensure it is funded as a separate resource.