Why do people attend A&E?

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Summary of report content

Healthwatch Cumbria was commissioned by the North Cumbria CCG to deliver a survey to people accessing the Accident & Emergency (A&E) Departments at the West Cumberland Hospital (WCH) and the Cumberland Infirmary (CIC). This work was focussed on understanding the reasons people give for ‘self-presenting’ at A&E, particularly in the evening.

The research took place from 2-15 September 2019, covering 9am-9pm across seven days. There were 243 respondents in total. Almost everyone present in the A&E waiting rooms was interviewed, with exceptions of ambulance arrivals and those who were visibly distressed or vomiting.

The vast majority of people at A&E were attending because of either an accident or illness, or had previously been to the hospital and were returning for further help or treatment. 60% of them had not attempted to see their GP first as they felt A&E was the most appropriate service for them at that time, although comments were made to the effect that they would have gone to their GP if it were more convenient to get an appointment. Those who attended the CIC would have liked to see relevant information displayed, whilst those who attended the WCH would not. This was probably a result of the information board that was already available at the WCH.

Healthwatch Cumbria made eight recommendations based on these findings, predominantly around public awareness and information provision about the relevant services.

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General details

Report title 
Why do people attend A&E?
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Cumbria
Date of publication 
Friday, 28 February, 2020
Date evidence capture began 
Monday, 2 September, 2019
Date evidence capture finished 
Sunday, 15 September, 2019
Type of report 
Key themes 
Booking appointments
Information providing
Service delivery organisation and staffing
Waiting time to be seen once arrived at appointment
Healthwatch reference number 

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
What type of organisation requested the work 
Primary research method used 
How was the information collected? 
Visit to provider
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Primary care services 
GP practice
Urgent and emergency care services 
Accident & emergency
NHS 111

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
Specific ethnicity if known 
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Does the information include staff's views? 
Types of health and care professionals engaged 
Does the information include other people's views? 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.