Non-urgent attendance at emergency departments
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Non-urgent attendance at emergency departments

Tricia McGuigan Writing, research nurse, For the minor/major injury/illness nurse treatment service and is now practice development facilitator in integrated care pathways at NHS Lanarkshire
Patricia Watson Senior lecturer, At the school of health, nursing and midwifery at the University of the West of Scotland, Hamilton

Tricia McGuigan and Patricia Watson present findings from a study of why people who do not have serious injuries or illnesses seek care at emergency departments

AimTo discover the factors influencing patients’ decisions to attend emergency departments (EDs) for non-urgent treatment.

MethodA sample of 196 patients self-presenting at an NHS Lanarkshire ED were interviewed by telephone.

FindingsThe results show that most of the sample members thought that their conditions required urgent attention and that their attendance at the ED was appropriate. The largest proportion of the sample presented with soft tissue injuries or haematomas. Females tended to attend because of others’ advice more than did males, with families and friends rather than healthcare professionals being their most common source of healthcare advice.

ConclusionA targeted social marketing campaign is needed to address the misconceptions of people who self-present at EDs. The employment of nurse advisors to assess and divert patients to appropriate care services can reduce attendance at EDs and would educate attendees about help-seeking decisions.

Emergency Nurse. 18, 6,34-38. doi: 10.7748/en.18.6.34.s18

Published in print: 01 October 2010