Some patients visit A&E 50 times a year
Published on 07 January 2014 02:30 PM
A small number of patients are attending hospital casualty departments dozens of times a year, new figures suggest.
Almost 12,000 people made more than 10 visits to the same A&E unit in 2012/13, according to a BBC investigation.
Just over 150 people visited A&E more than 50 times, the data shows.
In one extreme case a patient at Luton and Dunstable Hospital went to casualty 234 times throughout the year, while in another example someone visited Sheffield's Northern General 223 times.
Repeat non-emergency attendees ‘adding to the pressures'
Although such cases may be further adding to the pressures that A&E units are already facing, officials are keen to point out that this is a small minority of cases, and they may be arising as a result of other issues.
Dr Cliff Mann, of the College of Emergency Medicine, told the BBC it was clear 'that repeat non-emergency attendees are adding to the pressures'.
However, he pointed out that some frequent visitors to A&E had mental health issues or problems with drug or alcohol abuse so it may be that improved support in the community could reduce the pressure on A&Es.
An NHS England spokeswoman said repeat attenders were responsible for only a small proportion of the 21 million visits to A&E per year in England alone.
People need to be aware of the local health services available
'The figures presented here suggest that the number of people attending A&E frequently is relatively small when considered against the big picture,' she said.
'Our A&E departments are trusted by the public and it is really important that people know the NHS will be there for them if they need treatment and care.'
The spokeswoman also stressed it is important that people are aware of all the local health services available to them.
'The NHS works hard to ensure people know where to go to get the best care and can use services appropriately.'
Fewer than 12,000 people accounted for around 200,000 A&E visits during the year, according to the figures.
The BBC asked 175 hospital trusts and boards across the UK for data on repeat attendances during 2012/13 and a total of 106 responded, providing figures covering 183 units.
Copyright Press Association 2014