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Daily Mail Jump in needless A&E admissions as new figures show HALF of cases do not need medical treatment

Image Jump in needless A&E admissions as new figures show HALF of cases do not need medical treatment

-Figures published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre show 34 per cent of patients visiting A&E last year only needed advice.
-Another 13 per cent did not even need medical advice.
-Health secretary Jeremy Hunt blamed pressure on A&E in part on Labour's decision to give GPs the chance to opt-out of working out of hours.
-Experts say many people should be visiting pharmacies, their doctor or using basic first aid instead of going straight to hospital.

Nearly half of all patients who go to A&E do not need treatment, shocking new figures reveal.
About a third merely need medical advice while 13 per cent do not even require that.

As casualty departments are braced for a winter crisis, many patients are wrongly going to A&E when they should be going to a pharmacy, a GP or using basic first aid.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre says 21.7million patients went to casualty last year, up by 57 per cent from 13.8million in 2008/9.

Of these, an astonishing 47 per cent left A&E without needing treatment – up from 33 per cent in 2009/10.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said the rise in numbers going to A&E is partly due to a disastrous GP contract negotiated by Labour. This allowed family doctors to opt out of working out of hours, leaving patients with nowhere else to go. ‘Labour’s 2004 GP contract did terrible damage to out-of-hours care, leaving many people feeling they have no choice but to go to A&E when they want medical attention,’ Mr Hunt said yesterday. ‘That’s why we are ripping up Labour’s old contract, and bringing back traditional family doctors to take personal responsibility for patients’ care – starting with the over-75s.’

Julia Manning, of the think-tank 2020 Health, said many would not need to go to A&E had they managed to see their GP or even just get hold of them over the phone. ‘It shows a lack of information around first aid, it shows that people’s expectations have changed and there’s much more of a sense of entitlement rather than using services appropriately,’ she said.

Senior doctors say this winter could be one of the worst yet for A&E departments due to a lack of senior doctors and rising numbers of patients. Cliff Mann, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, said: ‘I don’t think I am being particularly shroud-waving when I say this year is going to be one of the worst. It certainly isn’t going to get any better. ‘At the moment we have the capacity to see three-quarters of a million fewer patients than three years ago because we have 370 fewer registrars [senior doctors]. ‘But the number of patients we are having to see has risen by a quarter of a million in the last year.’

The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, said the shambolic NHS 111 helpline had worsened the crisis with call centre workers wrongly telling patients to go to A&E.

BMA chairman Mark Porter said: ‘Rising attendance rates, coupled with the Government’s drive to do more with less, mean many emergency departments are under extreme pressure and are close to capacity. ‘To alleviate pressure and reduce unnecessary attendance we need to ensure patients know how and where to access appropriate care and that they get the right advice first time round. ‘Key to this is having an effective out-of-hours telephone service, yet the disastrous introduction of NHS 111 replaced a clinician-led service with a call centre and was responsible for many people being wrongly directed to emergency departments.’

Officials said the latest statistics could indicate that the figures were being properly recorded for the first time, rather than being a sign that they were rising. In the past few months, the Government has invested an extra £400million in A&E departments, some of which will be spent hiring extra staff and making more beds available from previously closed wards.