A research 17study commissioned by Barnsley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) from April 2012 to March 2013 shows that a high number of people attend Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (BHNFT) emergency department for non-emergencies.

The study took place from April 2012 to March 2013 and evaluated data from almost 80,000 patient visits.  Staff focus groups and patient interviews were also carried out.  During January 14 – February 14 2014 a questionnaire was handed out to people attending the emergency department and 951 were completed by patients, of this, only 22% of patients considered their condition to be an emergency.

As expected, high users of the emergency department were children 0-5 years old (11.6%) and people aged 65 and above (20.9%).  An interesting group to emerge from the data were young men aged 19 to 21 years who accounted for 13.3% of patients.

In adults minor injuries such as back pain, sprains and strains were the main reason people attended the emergency department.  Children mainly presented with vomiting, high temperature and rashes.

The majority of people said they had attended to gain reassurance that their condition (or that of their child’s) wasn’t anything to worry about. People also said they didn’t know where else to go and that getting an appointment with their GP could be at times difficult.

Dr Nick Balac, local GP and Chair of NHS Barnsley CCG said:  “This research is very useful in helping us to understand why the emergency department is so busy and we need to find more ways to let people know about the other services available in the Borough.

“We have recently introduced Saturday opening in some GP surgeries and are in the process of rolling out a GP telephone appointment service which will make it easier for people to get to see their GP.

“In addition pharmacies are able to offer expert, confidential advice and treatment for a whole range of minor conditions. They are often open longer hours and at weekends, many also have a private area where you can speak to them.  NHS 111 is also available 24 hours a day 365 days a year for health advice and information.”

Diane Wake, Chief Executive at Barnsley Hospital, said:  “Whilst it is reassuring to know that people think the service provided by our emergency department is ‘top class’, however by attending with a non-emergency it can mean someone else is not getting the care they need.

“The emergency department should only be used in the case of a serious or life-threatening situation and people should choose to either treat their own minor injuries or use more relevant services available within the borough such as the pharmacy, GP or telephone NHS 111.

“Picking the right service will allow you to get the best possible treatment”

Details of health services in the Borough and when to use them can be found on Barnsley CCG website http://www.barnsleyccg.nhs.uk/about-us/choose-well.htm.  A campaign will be carried out across the Borough advising people about the services available over winter.