A new government plan to improve hospital care in the UK will mean patients will have to be treated for a few hours before being admitted to hospital.
The plan, unveiled by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, will be rolled out over the next year in England.
The changes mean patients could be discharged from hospital at 1am, but that would only happen if the patient had a medical condition that would require an immediate hospital admission.
Patients could also be discharged for the same reason, with no need to wait for a doctor to assess the condition.
The idea was first unveiled in January, when Hunt announced that NHS staff would no longer have to attend to patients if they had a “serious” condition.
The move follows a national debate on the merits of shorter hospital stays, which have been the subject of much criticism from some quarters.
But NHS England said the changes were designed to protect the NHS’s health and safety.
The new plan will be in place from June next year, the department said in a statement.
The NHS is already seeing a big reduction in hospital admissions.
Between April 2015 and March 2017, the number of people admitted to hospitals fell by 9% – to an average of one person a day.
The change in policy is expected to bring an average cut in the number by 18 minutes a day in the short term.
The Health Secretary said that while there was no specific reason for the changes, he was “proud” to see the NHS moving to a more flexible approach to treating patients.
“I am proud that the NHS is on the cusp of taking the next important step towards delivering the NHS as a whole better, faster and more efficiently,” Hunt said.
He added: “We know that hospital admission times are longer in England than in any other part of the country.
But it is a matter of time before we can finally move from having a single-day hospital admission to a shorter one.”