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Monday, April 26, 1999 Published at 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK


A&E overloaded during holidays

Casualty departments are busy during holiday periods

The accident and emergency service is overloaded during holiday periods by people with minor ailments who should be consulting a GP, a survey has found.

The results have intensfied fears that the service will not be able to cope during the millennium celebrations.

Sanchia Berg: "The millennium scares doctors"
The survey, carried out by the Doctor Patient Partnership at nine A&E departments during the Easter holiday, found that more than half the patients coming in with minor ailments like sore throats and flu had not even tried to contact their GP.

But A&E staff who took part in the survey said that 70% of those patients should have consulted a GP, and most could have waited until regular surgery hours.

[ image: Dr Simon Fradd said patients were overloading A&E departments]
Dr Simon Fradd said patients were overloading A&E departments
DPP chairman Dr Simon Fradd said the results were worrying because many people did not seem to realise that A&E services were not designed to deal with minor ailments, or as an alternative to GP services.

GPs had a round-the-clock responsibility for their patients and it was down to them to provide emergency medical cover outside normal surgery hours.

He said: "These patients are blocking up the whole system.

"We know that the health service is running absolutely to capacity. It is the difference between the service just about coping and being overloaded and resulting in collapse."

Busy time

Mr Andrew Hobart, a junior doctor working in A&E in Birmingham said holiday times always placed a great strain on junior doctors who have to deal with most of the patients coming into casualty.

Mr Hobart said doctors feared they would not be able to cope during the millennium celebrations.

"I think we are scared of a workload which is unmanageable. Patients are going to be at risk and doctors working there are going to find that very stressful - we don't like not being able to look after our patients properly."

Mike Stone, acting general manager of the Patients Association said people should think very carefully before going to A&E.

"A&E should only be used in accidents or emergencies as the name suggests," he said.

Mr Stone urged people to contact the NHS helpline NHS Direct for advice about minor ailments.

The British Association for Accident and Emergency Medicine said A&E departments also had to cope with inappropriate demand in the evenings and at weekends.

In a statement, the association said: "The results show conclusively what has been known for some time, that many people are unaware of when it is appropriate to attend an A&E department."

NHS is 'well prepared'

Sir Alan Langlands: "The NHS will be prepared for the millennium"
Sir Alan Langlands, chief executive of the NHS, said every NHS trust was drawing up a plan to cope with extra demand over the six month period October 1999 to March 2000.

He said: "This is a time for a cool head. Planning is very well advanced in the health service," he said.

Sir Alan said £100m was being invested in A&E departments this year to improve the service.

He said NHS Direct was also being extended to cover 60% of the population.

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15 Apr 99†|†Health
Millennium emergency care risk

16 Feb 99†|†Health
Blair promises quality casualty service

25 Jan 99†|†Health
Snapshot survey for the NHS

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NHS Confederation

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