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Sore throats, drug and alcohol use, and fevers - the reasons people visited Norfolk’s A&E departments revealed

PUBLISHED: 10:14 11 April 2018 | UPDATED: 12:18 11 April 2018

Medical professionals working in emergency room Photo: Jupiterimages/Getty Images

Medical professionals working in emergency room Photo: Jupiterimages/Getty Images

© Getty Images

More than 170 people turned up at Norfolk’s emergency departments last year because of a sore throat, new data has revealed.

The statistics, which cover April 2017 to January 2018 and record the chief complaint of those turning up at A&E were only available for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) and James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) in Gorleston.

But the list showed the thousands of people going to A&E for potentially trivial complaints, when they could be treated elsewhere, including 173 patients with sore throats.

Other ailments included 1,024 patients across the two hospitals who went to A&E with a fever, 112 who wanted wound care when there was no complication, and 72 people who arrived because their infant was crying.

A further 58 people were requesting prescriptions, 87 presented with a social problem but were medically well.

James Paget Hospital
Generic hospital
Accident and emergency
Ambulance
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2016James Paget Hospital Generic hospital Accident and emergency Ambulance Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2016

And 31 people went to the over stretched departments because they were pale.

Some 677 people presented with drug or alcohol intoxication or withdrawal.

Hundreds also arrived at A&E for mental health difficulties - 318 people arrived due to self harm, while a further 294 were there due to suicidal thoughts.

Anxiety disorder was the chief complaint of 70 patients, and 61 patients reported depression as their reason for attending.

A further 38 were there due to unusual, agitated, or violent behaviour.

JPUH deputy chief operating officer Jo Fawcus said: “Over the past six months the James Paget, like other hospitals across the country, has been extremely busy and one of our key messages has been not to use accident and emergency unless it is a genuine emergency.

“We need to keep A&E free for those who genuinely need emergency help. We recognise that people may worry about ongoing issues so our key message is to ask everyone to use the comprehensive options that are available in the community. If you need medical assistance please choose wisely.”

Richard Parker, NNUH chief operating officer, added: “Approximately 75pc of patients attending A&E do not require admission to hospital.”

He added that while he would never discourage patients from seeking the hospital’s help, he pointed to other services available for minor ailments.

Accident and emergency - not anything and everything

A&E cannot stand for “anything and everything” - that was the message previously given by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine when looking into the number of patients who misused emergency departments.

At the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital it was found some 40pc of patients had minor health problems which could be dealt with at home.

An emergency includes unconsciousness, heavy blood loss, suspected broken bones, a deep wound such as a stab wound, a suspected heart attack, difficulty breathing, severe burns, or severe allergic reactions.

But other services are available if the condition is not an emergency.

Patients can call NHS 111 where an operator can either give advice or connect the patient with a clinician. NHS 111 is also the way to ask for an out of hours doctor.

There are also walk-in centres - the one in Norwich’s Rouen Road is open 365 days a year between 7am and 9pm. Or the Cromer Minor Injuries Unit is open 8am to 8pm in Mill Road.

Pharmacists can also give advice and treatment on common complaints.

Addressing the social issues

Some people who go to A&E need help with social problems rather than medical ones.

The roots of their issues are usually not medical although they experience symptoms of physical or mental ill health. Very often factors will include loneliness, homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse or mental health problems.

Last autumn the three CCGs for Norwich, North Norfolk and South Norfolk commissioned a one-year pilot to seek out and support these frequent attenders.

They identified those who make frequent visits to A&E that are not medical emergencies and helped many of them to resolve their issues and, consequently, reduced A&E attendance considerably.

The results so far showed a 92pc reduction in A&E attendances in November, and 89pc in December.

Queen’s Nurse Tracy Williams works at CityReach and has clinical oversight of the pilot. She is also chair of NHS Norwich CCG.

She said: “We understand that people attend A&E for a variety of reasons. Some are acutely unwell or hurt and must be seen there, while others attend for minor issues for which there are better alternatives, such as their GP, a pharmacy, walk-in centre or NHS 111.

“We also know there are people who attend for social reasons that impact on their health and wellbeing because they don’t know where else to turn to. This is why we commissioned the frequent attenders service as a one-year pilot. Already it has very been successful for many people.”

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