We have now published our report based on the findings of our recent visits to Worcestershire’s Accident and Emergency departments. We wanted to understand more about why patients “walk in” to A&E, and what, if anything, would make a difference to their decision to visit A&E. We carried out 15 visits to the A&E public waiting areas at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital and the Alexandra Hospital in November and December 2021, speaking with 323 people.

70% of patients we spoke to told us they had contacted another health service in advance and most were sent to A&E by the health service they contacted. GP’s and NHS 111 can alert or book an appointment at A&E for patients, but this didn’t happen for everyone. Some people who contacted NHS 111 told us of problems getting through and long waits for call backs. Alternatives to A&E need to work for patients, or they may be tempted to go directly to A&E.

Not everyone who had gone to A&E without contacting another health service had heard of Minor Injury Units. Those who did know about Minor Injury Units felt they still needed to be at A&E as they were too far away or may not be able to treat their illness or injury. Although most people had heard of NHS 111, they did not necessarily know about contacting them before going to A&E or had not heeded that advice. Overall, people felt that A&E was the right place for them.

We did find that online information about where to go in an accident or emergency in Worcestershire could be improved. There is no single source of online information about Urgent Care in the County, information about NHS 111 First was not always consistent, and different websites give different information about Minor Injuries Units. We also know that not everyone can use online information, so it is important that people can still “walk in” to A&E and Minor Injuries Units when they need them.

We made 15 recommendations as a result of our findings and have asked the NHS in Worcestershire to respond. This will be published alongside the full report on our website www.healthwatchworcestershire.co.uk

Please get in touch to share your experiences of any local health and social care services – info@healthwatchworcestershire.co.uk or 01386 550264.