One in five who show up at A&E should not even be there

STRETCHED Hundreds of people are visiting A&E inappropriately costing hundreds of thousands
STRETCHED Hundreds of people are visiting A&E inappropriately costing hundreds of thousands

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THE clue would be in the title, yet hundreds of thousands of pounds is being wasted each year, seeing people who shouldn’t be in A&E.

Queen Alexandra Hospital’s accident and emergency department sees around 110,000 people each year.

In an average week 275 patients will come into the emergency unit, in the Cosham hospital.

But during the winter, this figure rises to 310 – putting a massive amount of pressure on an already-busy department and hard-working staff.

About 20 per cent – 22,000 people – that come in shouldn’t be there. So when should you visit accident and emergency?

An A&E attendance costs £60, which means £1.3m a year is being wasted on treating people going to the wrong place.

Managers at the A&E department also believe that drink-drivers are also coming into the department to avoid police stations.

The News spent the night in A&E to see the type of people that come in.

Here are some the patients who visited that night.

Among them was a woman who was in shock after seeing her phone charger spark as she pulled it from the wall.

Rick Strang, in charge of A&E, said: ‘The woman was sent in via the NHS 111 number.

‘She had called them because she was shocked to see her charger spark as she pulled it from the wall.

‘Because of the algorithms they use, and the word “shock”, she was advised to come here and get checked out.

‘But she didn’t need to be here at all.’

Another patient who came in was a 24-year-old man from Emsworth.

His thumb became swollen after he had been hitting a punch bag at a gym.

He said: ‘I came straight to A&E and didn’t think about going elsewhere.

‘I was seen in about half-an-hour, which wasn’t too bad.’

As the night went on, four girls came in, with one bent over. The 24-year-old from Fareham suffers from chronic back pain.

She said: ‘I hurt my back when I fell off an escalator while drunk, when I was younger.

‘Since then I have had problems with my back and take painkillers.

‘I spoke to my doctor in the morning and was given different medication. But what I was given didn’t work, so I decided to come to A&E.

‘I just wanted to get it sorted.’

But this is another example of someone that should not be visiting A&E, but getting help from elsewhere.

Mr Strang said: ‘Those who have a chronic – or long-term condition – shouldn’t really be coming to A&E. They should be seeing their doctor, who knows their history and can help them better.

‘But we are the safety net, people know if they come to A&E, that eventually they will be seen. And people are happy to sit and wait.

‘When we are absolutely stretched and we find out walk-in centres have spaces, we say to patients that if they can get there, they should go.

‘They would be treated quicker than waiting in A&E.’

Through the night, a variety of other people came in, including a man with a lump on his shoulder.

The 45-year-old of Portchester said: ‘I could feel some pain on my shoulder, so my wife had a look for me and could see the lump.

‘As it was late, I thought there was not much point in calling a GP, so I came here instead.’

Other cases that came in included a man who burst a blood vessel in his nose from coughing, who was transferred to the ear, nose and throat department, a man who had suffered an allergic reaction from medication and a nurse who had a broken elbow after being knocked off her bike by a drink-driver.

Mr Strang added: ‘Even though it wasn’t as busy as it can be, you can see there are people coming in who really shouldn’t be.

‘And with a tough winter predicted, we need to keep the numbers low and treat genuine emergency cases.’

· This is a first in a series of reports in Under Pressure week. This is what’s coming up.

· Also read The News view: Let’s make these A&E time-wasters think again