When people can’t get an appointment with a GP, they can phone their usual GP surgery for out-of-hours services, or go to an NHS walk-in centre if there is one locally, where minor illnesses can be treated without an appointment. Many minor things will get better on their own, or people can wait until the GP surgery is open again. When Hannah couldn’t get an appointment with a GP and the walk-in centre had closed, she took her 11-month-old son, who was ‘covered in chicken pox’, to A&E instead because she was very worried about him.
The walk-in centre was about to close so Hannah had to go to A&E. There, she was given antibiotics for her baby.
An A&E department (also known as emergency department or casualty) deals with serious or life-threatening emergencies. These include head injuries or loss of consciousness, seizures that aren’t stopping, and broken (or fractured) bones
When Vinay fractured his finger, he was given an x-ray and had his finger plastered. He was disappointed when he couldn’t get a follow-up appointment.
Winston went to A&E when he broke his wrist. He went again after a car accident. The wound was cleaned, which was painful.
People can also go to A&E because of:
ongoing severe chest pain or difficulty breathing
severe bleeding that can’t be stopped
severe allergic reactions
severe burns or scalds
Gentian burst his lip during football. He needed to have stitches at another hospital. He’s been to A&E a few times because of football injuries.
A couple of days after seeing the GP, Rowan went to A&E again. It was late at night and the pain was very severe. He hoped that he’d get tests done quickly.
JalÃ© is aware that some people go to A&E for minor things. When she had severe stomach pain, she was scared and wanted to know what was causing it.
Vinay had an ECG and urine tests, and was given painkillers. Later he was referred by his GP to see a specialist (urologist).
Some people visit A&E because they have self-harmed. Nikki, who’d had depression and self-harmed, said she’d ‘lost count of the amount of times’ she’d gone to A&E because of self-harming (overdosing). She disliked medical staff at A&E and said she’d overheard a nurse saying that she was ‘the dramatic type’, which made her feel like ‘a waste of space’. Nikki felt that A&E could be improved by having staff who dealt specifically with mental health. Shane also took an overdose. He had bad memories of being assessed in hospital and never wanted to go through that again. Fran had overdosed on recreational drugs and been to A&E three times. Like Shane, she disliked hospitals. Shane’s experience made him determined not to go back there again.