Patients need ‘educating’ after big rise in A&E visitors, says Hartlepool and Stockton health boss

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A HOSPITAL trust says it has seen a “significant rise” in the number of people visiting its accident and emergency department in the last 12 months with minor ailments which could have been treated elsewhere.

Clinical director for Accident and Emergency at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, Andy Simpson, made the comments following a report from a parliamentary health group.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Primary Care and Public Health said that the NHS should consider refusing to treat patients who turn up at A&E with minor problems.

But although Mr Simpson admits that there has been a rise in the number of people seeking treatment for minor problems at his trust’s A&E department, he said people would not be turned away.

They would instead be offered advice on what to do in such situations in future.

He told the Mail: “In the last year in particular, we have seen a significant rise in the number of patients attending the department who could have seen their GP, a dentist, or visited a pharmacist.

“We use people’s visits to A&E to educate them about options for care, should they need it in future.”

The parliamentary group said the controversial move of turning people away from A&E if they are deemed unsuitable for the service, should be looked at alongside a wider education drive to help people manage their own health issues better.

The politicians call for more strategic thinking and planning across the health service to deal with the winter surge in patients seeking treatment for viruses and infections.

The report states: “Also necessary are measures to empower patients and the public, to help them understand how to look after their own health and their family’s health, especially during winter.

“Self-care education must be part of the winter pressures solution to help reduce workload in general practice.

“It will also free-up capacity in A&E for those presenting with symptoms of common ailments, and long term conditions.

“Emergency bed admissions can also be reduced if people are taught to manage their more serious health conditions,” stated the report.