New figures show thousands “attend A&E unnecessarily”

Non emergency visits to AE

People living in south east Essex are being asked to think twice before visiting A&E - unless their condition is a genuine emergency. New figures suggest thousands of people who visit the A&E department each year did not require any treatment or medical investigation.

The figures, released today by NHS Southend Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), show more than three and a half thousand people attended A&E in the five months between April and August this year who did not require any treatment or medical investigation. This was 1,555 patients between April and June (7% of all attendances) and 2,044 patients between July and August (13% of all attendances).

Dr Caroline Howard, Southend Hospital’s Consultant Emergency Department and Clinical Director for Emergency Directorate and Medicine Directorate, said: “People attending with non-emergency problems will not be treated at Southend Hospital’s Emergency Department. We are very clear that they will be referred back to their GP or appropriate care such as a pharmacy if they attend with a non-emergency problem.

“However it still takes a senior clinician’s time to assess these patients and then explain the course of action to them, which is time that could be better spent on managing those who truly need our expert input with a real emergency. A number of people attend believing we will speed things up but this is not the case. We cannot expedite out-patient appointments or investigations booked and cannot refer to any non-emergency clinics.”

Some of the non-emergency problems the team at Southend’s Emergency Department have seen in the past year have included:

  • Broken finger nail
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Cold
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Toothache
  • Social problems

In the past week this has also included:

  • Rash for a year
  • Feeling anxious
  • Sore throat
  • Toothache and dental problems
  • Back pain for 3 months
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhoea and vomiting

Dr José Garcia Lobera, chair of NHS Southend CCG, said: “It is important local people remember A&E is an emergency room, intended for patients with serious or life-threatening conditions. Many of the conditions we are looking at today are more appropriate for a local GP surgery or even the local pharmacist. Some are very minor conditions which patients could care for at home themselves.
“Since April we know more than three and half thousand people attended A&E unnecessarily. This is putting enormous pressure on the system and costing the NHS in Southend, Castle Point and Rochford an enormous amount of money.”

With winter fast approaching and pressure on the local health system already growing Phil Read, the Associate Director of System Resilience for the NHS in south east Essex, said: “We need local people to really think about how they use local health services and ensure they are accessing the right service for their needs.

“Local pharmacists, in particular, are able to offer advice and prescribe medication for a whole range of conditions from coughs and colds, rashes and stings to diarrhoea and vomiting. It would also make a big difference this winter if our residents ensured they had received a flu jab. It is important everyone plays their part in taking care of their own health this winter, but we hope local people will also help us take care of the NHS.”

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