Patients visit A&E up to 50 times a year
Some patients are going to Accident and Emergency (A&E) units more than 50 times a year.
Data from 183 sites obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed nearly 12,000 people made more than 10 visits to the same unit in 2012-13.
And a small number of those – just over 150 – attended more than 50 times.
Doctors warned that the issue, while confined to a minority of patients, was adding to the mounting pressures on the system this winter. Many hospitals are already struggling to hit their waiting time targets- without these extra issues.
In England, the four hour target was missed in the first two weeks of December, but the numbers attending A&Es eased over the Christmas period and the target has been met for the past fortnight.
However, that overall figure masks the struggle the biggest units are facing.
Of the 144 major centres, more than 60 failed to hit the target during the Christmas week despite the number of patients dropping by nearly 10%.
Patients Association chief executive Katherine Murphy said: “These figures are of great concern and provide yet more proof that our already overstretched A&E services are being put under increasingly severe strain.
“It needs to be recognised that every inappropriate attendance at the A&E would detract health professionals from attending to the genuine and often life-threatening emergencies,” she added.
She said improving access to GPs could make a big difference – before Christmas, official NHS data showed the number of people waiting longer than a week to be seen by a GP was growing.
A spokeswoman for NHS England said the figures should be seen in context – in England alone there were more than 21 million visits to A&E units last year.
“The figures presented here suggest that the number of people attending A&E frequently is relatively small when considered against the big picture.”
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said steps were being made to improve access to community care through the launch of a £3.8 billion joint pot in April 2015 to encourage the NHS and local government to work together.
Tags: Accident and Emergency, Doctors, Health Direct, National Health Service, NHS, Patients' Association