East Lancashire health campaigners slam repeat A&E visitors

Blackburn Citizen: The accident and emergency ward at Royal Blackburn Hospital is the busiest in the north west The accident and emergency ward at Royal Blackburn Hospital is the busiest in the north west

HEALTH campaigners have blasted those who repeatedly turn up at emergency hospital departments with minor complaints - including two patients who visited hospital more than 100 times each last year.

New figures released by East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust also showed there were five patients who sought emergency or urgent care more than 50 times each in 2012/13, with 224 people seeking care on more than 10 occasions.

The accident and emergency ward at Royal Blackburn Hospital is the busiest in the north west, and campaigners said the frequent visitors were putting staff under unnecessary strain.

Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said: “These figures are quite appalling because most of these people will be complete time wasters.

“I know of cases where patients have turned up with a headache and want some paracetemol, as well as mothers wanting paracetamol for their baby. The hospital is already in trouble so this really makes me very angry.”

ELHT has been in special measures since July after inspectors made damning criticisms of the way it was run over several years.

The Lancashire Telegraph has also featured several stories about the emergency ward in recent months, as hundreds of patients have waited longer than the national target of four hours to be seen.

The new statistics, released under Freedom of Information laws, showed one patient turned up at hospital 136 times, with another attending 124 times. The visits were spread between the A&E ward, the urgent care centres based at the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospitals, and the minor injuries unit in Accrington.

Patients attending more than 50 times accounted for a total of 441 visits, while those attending 10 times racked up a total of 4,064 visits across the four sites.

Many frequent visitors had problems with drug or alcohol abuse, or mental health issues.

Emergency treatment is far more expensive for the NHS than primary care, which is delivered by GPs or pharmacists, and Mr McLean added: “People need to realise that although the NHS is free at the point of contact, it isn’t really free at all.

“All of us have to pay for it and patients really need to think carefully before attending hospital because NHS resources are so low. It needs to be a serious education drive to target these patients.”

Although A&E staff can offer advice to patients who arrive with minor problems, the patient can still demand to be treated.

As reported earlier this week, about a third of doctors believe hospitals should introduce charges for some attendances, to deter those who turn up unnecessarily.

But Ron O’Keeffe, chairman of Blackburn with Darwen Council’s health scrutiny committee, said: “I’m shocked by these figures but I don’t believe anyone should be refused care or charged for it. The NHS is based on the principle that it’s free for everyone.

“There needs to be a proper investigation into why these people are turning up so frequently and what we can do about it.”

Gordon Birtwistle, MP for Burnley, said: “It’s outrageous for anyone to turn up more than 100 times in one year.

“I find that astonishing. These patients are blocking up the system for people with real problems.

“The solution is education and the staff need to sit down and talk to these patients. They need to have the seriousness of the situation explained.”

The A&E department at Blackburn dealt with about 57,000 patients in total last year, with about 47,000 seen by the urgent care centre. Burnley’s urgent care centre saw about 50,000 patients, while 22,000 patients attended Accrington’s minor injuries unit.

Dr Charles Thomson, clinical director of emergency and urgent care at ELHT, said: “This is very frustrating as inevitably these patients take up the time of our staff who could be treating patients who genuinely need to be in the urgent care centre or emergency department.

“For patients that do attend inappropriately, we do not have a policy of turning anyone away but do suggest to them that their health needs may be met more appropriately by visiting their GP or pharmacist.

“As we are open 24/7 this invariably means that people who have trouble getting an appointment with their GP come to the hospitals for treatment. “ He said various measures had been introduced to tackle the problem, including a Hospital Alcohol Liaison Team, to work with patients who frequently attend with alcohol-related problems.

Comments (8)

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6:20am Thu 9 Jan 14

AnthonyUK says...

Also another problem is people regularly and deliberately calling out ambulances frequently for minor problems;not a day goes by without an ambulance wailing every two minutes of every day of the week and it's irritating to say the least!!! Have people deliberately lost the art of looking after themselves for minor things or do all minor things need ambulances no matter how small or trivial???
Also another problem is people regularly and deliberately calling out ambulances frequently for minor problems;not a day goes by without an ambulance wailing every two minutes of every day of the week and it's irritating to say the least!!! Have people deliberately lost the art of looking after themselves for minor things or do all minor things need ambulances no matter how small or trivial??? AnthonyUK
  • Score: 20

6:37am Thu 9 Jan 14

mayor07 says...

And there were people commenting recently on here that noone would attend a&e and urgent care unless they needed to when I was trying to point out that about a third of attendances could be dealt with in primary care.

Something needs to be done to change behaviour. The NHS locally must start a relentless media campaign constantly telling the public how much this costs and the pressure this is putting the health system under.

If that has no impact then I think serious consideration should be given to turning people away who don't require emergency or urgency care, or them being charged for the services where this is the case.
And there were people commenting recently on here that noone would attend a&e and urgent care unless they needed to when I was trying to point out that about a third of attendances could be dealt with in primary care. Something needs to be done to change behaviour. The NHS locally must start a relentless media campaign constantly telling the public how much this costs and the pressure this is putting the health system under. If that has no impact then I think serious consideration should be given to turning people away who don't require emergency or urgency care, or them being charged for the services where this is the case. mayor07
  • Score: 19

9:40am Thu 9 Jan 14

AnimalReid says...

Well, as the article says, if health campaigners have 'blasted' those who turn up with minor complaints it sounds like the problem has now been solved....
Well, as the article says, if health campaigners have 'blasted' those who turn up with minor complaints it sounds like the problem has now been solved.... AnimalReid
  • Score: 1

2:12pm Thu 9 Jan 14

Pinky&theBrain says...

Its all right to 'slam' the patients but what are they doing about it?
This hospital is in melt down and '2 patients causing 200 attendances scenarios' isn't going to gain back public confidence - that's 200 visits over 365 days flag them with their GP's and let them sort them out, if they're drunk, as indicated by the alcohol team reference, get the team to sort them out.
You're not telling me that those 2 patients have caused the hospital A&E to fall over its a bl**dy smoke screen, an excuse for a p*ss poor job - tell the doctors to roll their sleeves up and do some work instead of standing around twiddling their thumbs letting the nurses run themselves ragged. Plus Mr Thomson? whats so hard about telling someone with a headache to get some paracetamol from the chemist and bu*ger off?
Its not rocket science - get some mums or grandma's on the front door to teach those that rock up some common sense.
Its all right to 'slam' the patients but what are they doing about it? This hospital is in melt down and '2 patients causing 200 attendances scenarios' isn't going to gain back public confidence - that's 200 visits over 365 days flag them with their GP's and let them sort them out, if they're drunk, as indicated by the alcohol team reference, get the team to sort them out. You're not telling me that those 2 patients have caused the hospital A&E to fall over its a bl**dy smoke screen, an excuse for a p*ss poor job - tell the doctors to roll their sleeves up and do some work instead of standing around twiddling their thumbs letting the nurses run themselves ragged. Plus Mr Thomson? whats so hard about telling someone with a headache to get some paracetamol from the chemist and bu*ger off? Its not rocket science - get some mums or grandma's on the front door to teach those that rock up some common sense. Pinky&theBrain
  • Score: 4

4:50pm Thu 9 Jan 14

useyourhead says...

Good luck explaining how the nhs can't afford to treat them, you'll no doubt do it in a nice shiny, clean, warm office with computers and other mod cons and your telling someone who has to go sleep in a box you have no money. They just won't comprehend or believe you. I don't think it will make the slightest difference, except maybe that they get the extra bonus of another few hours in the warm with someone interacting with them for a while.
Good luck explaining how the nhs can't afford to treat them, you'll no doubt do it in a nice shiny, clean, warm office with computers and other mod cons and your telling someone who has to go sleep in a box you have no money. They just won't comprehend or believe you. I don't think it will make the slightest difference, except maybe that they get the extra bonus of another few hours in the warm with someone interacting with them for a while. useyourhead
  • Score: 0

5:32pm Thu 9 Jan 14

denidenideni says...

Name them, photos as well
Name them, photos as well denidenideni
  • Score: 3

8:15pm Thu 9 Jan 14

elmo maniac says...

Some people think if they visit nhs on a regular basis the job centre wont be on their case for there made up/minor injuries . And maybe the doctors have refused to treat them. Pain killers are easily sold at the local chemist . These patients need to realise that nhs is not to be over used and is there for everyone in an emergency.
Some people think if they visit nhs on a regular basis the job centre wont be on their case for there made up/minor injuries . And maybe the doctors have refused to treat them. Pain killers are easily sold at the local chemist . These patients need to realise that nhs is not to be over used and is there for everyone in an emergency. elmo maniac
  • Score: 1

8:19pm Thu 9 Jan 14

POW WOW says...

I've heard people simply go to A&E with an hangover !!!!!!!!! I wonder how many drain the NHS 111 hotline with their hangovers only to be simply told by the unqualified staff that since it's the head they're not taking any chances and an ambulance will be on it's way !!!!!!!!!
I've heard people simply go to A&E with an hangover !!!!!!!!! I wonder how many drain the NHS 111 hotline with their hangovers only to be simply told by the unqualified staff that since it's the head they're not taking any chances and an ambulance will be on it's way !!!!!!!!! POW WOW
  • Score: 4

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