Page last updated at 15:21 GMT, Friday, 11 December 2009

Patient A&E misuse 'costs 1.5m'

Campaign posters
The posters will be displayed on buses and in GP surgeries

Patients misusing accident and emergency services at a Buckinghamshire hospital are costing more than £1.5m a year, a health trust claims.

Toothache, contraception advice and pregnancy tests are cited as reasons for up to 90 people visiting Stoke Mandeville Hospital wrongly each day.

NHS Buckinghamshire aims to discourage people with minor ailments attending.

If casualty is used correctly the trust says it could send extra staff dealing with misuse to other clinical areas.

The campaign is based on a poster showing five patients in accident and emergency but only one of them requires emergency help.

'Real-life examples'

A man with chest pains, who "absolutely has to go to accident and emergency or call 999" stands beside a woman with a minor cut to her finger, a child with bad earache and a young woman requiring emergency contraception.

A young man with flu and a rugby player clutching a bag of frozen peas to a minor sporting injury also feature.

NHS Buckinghamshire said if savings are made, it could spend the £1.5m cost on developing other clinical areas, more nurses, better equipment and in community health centres.

Chief executive Ed Macalister-Smith said: "What makes the poster so strong is that the examples used are real.

"We know people use A&E like a quick-fix drop-in centre.

"But there are other services that are better suited to help, often with shorter waiting times, and that's where people with less severe symptoms should go for help or advice."

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