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Appropriate use of A & E

Appropriate Use of A&E

When Should A&E be Used?

Examples of when it is right and appropriate to attend A&E without delay are:

  • Major injuries such as injuries from road traffic accidents.
  • Falls from a considerable height.
  • Major head injuries.
  • Collapse.
  • Severe breathing difficulty.
  • Severe chest pain.
  • Severe haemorrhage.
  • Poisoning.
  • Extensive burns.

When it is Inappropriate to Use A&E Services?

Unfortunately, many people attend A&E with very minor problems. This makes it difficult for A&E staff to deal with the volume of cases, involves delays for patients and incurs some considerable costs. The following are examples of minor problems for which A&E attendance in not appropriate. Generally, if the person is unwell, but alert and speaking without impaired consciousness or severe breathing difficulty, then they do not need to attend:

  • Flu-like illnesses, coughs, earache, back ache.
  • Sore throats.
  • Minor breathlessness or wheezing.
  • Abdominal pain (unless extreme or associated with collapse).
  • Urinary difficulties (unless completely unable to pass water).
  • Vaginal bleeding (unless very heavy and associated with faintness).
  • Rashes (unless it appears like spontaneous bleeding under the skin or the person appears very unwell).
  • Backache.
  • Diarrhoea and vomiting.
  • Simple bites and stings.
  • Social problems.
  • Emergency contraception.
  • Dental problems (except major trauma).

Such conditions can generally be safely managed by your GP, practice nurse and in some cases the individual themselves.

We urge patients to avoid unnecessary use of A&E and to contact the practice in the first instance.  We offer a triage service when we have no availabel appointment left, where the receptionist will arrange for the GP to ring you back to discuss how best we can help you. Patients with medically urgent problems will always be seen on the day. 

Out of hours NHS 111 can provide assistance for urgent medical problems or assistance with the treatment of minor illnesses and injuries.

Most pharmacies can help with minor illnesses and provide medication for you to be able to manage the illness yourself.



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