Appropriate Use of A&E

When Should Accident and Emergency Be Used?

Examples of when it is right and appropriate to attend A&E are:-

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

When is it Inappropriate to Attend Accident and Emergency?

Unfortunately, many people attend A&E presenting with very minor, non-life threatening problems. This makes it incredibly difficult for A&E staff to deal with the sheer volume of cases. It also results in delays for patients who need help the most and incurs some considerable costs. The following are examples of minor problems for which A&E attendance is 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; patients with medically urgent problems will always be seen the same 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.