Do not come to the Emergency Department unless it is an emergency

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

We are encouraging people to consider whether they need to attend the Emergency Department when they are injured or unwell, or whether services in the community might be more appropriate.

Over the last few days the Emergency Department at Southmead Hospital has seen an increase in the number of patients attending. 

The Emergency Department is for serious and life-threatening injuries and conditions, but increasingly patients have been attending whose needs could be more appropriately met by primary care – either through their GP or their local pharmacy.

Emergency Department Matron, Juliette Hughes, said: “The vast majority of people who come to the department attend correctly and I want the public to know that we are here to support people who come here if they feel they must come. However a small minority of patients are using the department inappropriately and they are causing pressure every day.”

Southmead Hospital Emergency Department Lead Consultant Leilah Dare is encouraging people to consider whether they could be helped by GPs and pharmacies

Juliette added: "There have been occasions recently when people have come to the Emergency Department because it was convenient for them, with a problem that has been ongoing for several weeks and has not changed, or after returning from holiday with a minor injury or illness that began a few days before.

“We have had people who have arrived with a problem that has been the same for two weeks and they have decided to come to the Emergency Department one day just because they had some free time.

“We would like people to know that if they are thinking about attending because it is convenient, because they have been unwell or injured while on holiday and want to get it checked out, or if they think it will speed up the waiting time for an operation or scan, then a visit to the GP is most appropriate.”

Some examples of when the Emergency Department is the most suitable service are:

  • Any sort of chest pain
  • Symptoms of a stroke (FAST Symptoms)
  • If you are bleeding and it cannot be stopped
  • A suspected broken bone
  • If someone has collapsed or suffered a fit
  • If someone is unconscious or has suffered a change of consciousness
  • If you are in acute pain that is not a long-term problem that is being managed by another healthcare professional

Juliette added: “We understand that people get anxious and we understand that they don’t always know if they should come to the Emergency Department or not, but many people would find that their care is better provided by a GP. If everyone tries to use the Emergency Department only when they really need to, it will enable us to make care much safer for those people who really need to be here.”

Out of hours provision includes pharmacies, GP appointments, which can be obtained through NHS 111 and Minor Injuries Units and Walk-in Centres. Find out more about your options in Bristol here and South Gloucestershire here.

Southmead Hospital’s Emergency Department is for adults. The Minor Injuries Unit within the department caters for all ages and can deal with injuries including sprains, suspected fractures, wounds and bites.