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Local NHS commits to making changes after patients share their experiences of A&E

02/10/17

The number of people visiting A&E in 2016 increased by 5.3% to 23.57 milion. To better understand why more people have been visiting A&E, Healthwatch Reading spoke to patients to find out about their experience.

people waiting in A&E

To help A&E departments cope with increasing pressures and to care for their patients, the Government announced earlier this year that every hospital and GP would need to introduce new systems. When changes to services are proposed, Healthwatch make sure their communities’ needs are taken into consideration.

Healthwatch Reading spent a week in the Royal Berkshire Hospital's A&E department to find out how services are used at the moment and what people think of them. They asked people what made them decide to go to A&E and whether they'd contacted any other health services before coming in, such as 111, their GP or pharmacist. 

They found that:

  • More than half of the people they spoke to had contacted an NHS service beforehand and that 80 per cent had been sent by that service to A&E.
  • Nearly half of those who didn't seek help from another service said they would next time, if provided with more information about who to call. 
  • Some patients can't hear emergency department doctors call them through to the clinical area.
  • There is a lack of seats in the waiting room.
  • Reception staff don't always notice new patients when they arrive. 

Their findings challenged the assumption that people were ‘misusing’ A&E by going there as a first port of call or for minor problems, rather than for serious accidents and emergencies. 

Healthwatch Reading wrote a report and local service leaders have committed to making the suggested changes. They’re going to alter the A&E waiting area, and find ways to meet the needs of people who go to A&E regularly within the community.

Mandeep Kaur Sira, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Reading, said: “People are doing the right thing by seeking help before making a decision to go to A&E, but more often than not they are told by other NHS services to go to hospital. This raises a question about consistency of messages from various services including GPs, 111, the walk-in centre, and others, about the right place to go for their care.”

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