This week’s #NTTwitchat revealed concerns from a number of nurses about the public not really knowing what an A&E department is for.
We’d started our regular weekly chat on Twitter to talk about whether the lengthening waiting times in emergency departments were the result of staff shortages. But although resources were mentioned as a factor in the hold-ups and overcrowding, many nurses cited rising numbers of admissions as the biggest cause for concern.
And that rising number of people is down to their failure to appreciate when a trip to A&E is necessary, and where a visit to the local GP surgery or a call to NHS Direct will suffice.
Many nurse tweeters from around the country spoke about awareness campaigns on the back of buses in their local towns and cities and national advertising to increase the public’s understanding of where they can go to get help. But it does not seem to work. If you’ve ever spoken to an A&E nurse, you’ll know that in many of their shifts they see “frequent flyers” along with a range of first-timers who come with complaints that could easily be fixed elsewhere.
NHS Direct does encourage people to administer their own self-care and cut A&E admissions, but some nurses were saying that patients grew frustrated by their belief that there would be long wait times for callbacks from nurses. Having used the service, I don’t think I’ve ever waited as long as the average A&E stay, and certainly it’s much easier to wait in the comfort of your own home than it is in a jam-packed A&E department. Nurses joining us on Twitter were perplexed as to what more could be done to get that message out there and encourage more appropriate access of healthcare services.
The public health campaigns about smoking cessation, fitness and lung and bowel cancer are effective and persuasive, and that same focus on accessing services could prove just as effective at reducing demand on A&E services and saving money.
And there are other ways to tackle A&E overcrowding. This week, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board unveiled a new scheme to film drunken party-goers who were admitted to a triage clinic, and then give them the option of viewing the footage once they had sobered up to deter them from overindulging again. The pilot is easing the burden from A&E, and could be rolled out nationally if academics analysing it deem it an effective way to reduce admissions and a helpful part of the substance misuse strategy.
This innovative way of reducing the pressure at source is one example of re-education of the public about the impact of their behaviour, but others like it would surely benefit the health service.
See you on Wednesday. Until then, have a good week.