People aged 18-30 are amongst the fittest in the nation. However, they are also the biggest users of A&E services in the UK. While some of the reasons for this include having more active lifestyles, meaning sports injuries have become more common, many of these incidents are related to alcohol-fuelled behaviour and violence, which can be an unnecessary drain on the NHS. Using A&E responsibly can help tackle these issues, ensuring a better health service for all.
Understanding more about how to use A&E correctly can help you make better choices for your health and get the treatment you need in the best possible way, both for yourself and the NHS. After all, nobody wants to have to wait 4 hours in A&E if there are alternatives, right?
A&E and the under 30s
According to statistics published by the BBC, 18-30s make up 20% of all visits to A&E departments – around 3.9m. This age group only represents 16% of the UK’s population, offering some insight into how younger generations use the NHS. Other statistics showed that this age group is less likely to see their GP, and are predictably the biggest users of sexual health services.
While there are many positive elements to the under 30s use of the NHS, the A&E stats show an area for improvement.
When to use A&E
A&E services are among the NHS’ most overstretched. Many people visit their nearest A&E for medical care when they could get help elsewhere. Problems with A&E overcrowding have been blamed for unnecessary deaths, while staff often feel stressed and threatened because of issues with violence or drunk behaviour.
While A&E departments are open throughout the weekends and evenings, they’re not necessarily the right solution for your medical needs. A&E should be kept for emergencies, with other options available for dealing with urgent care outside of normal GP hours. Even breaks, sprains and other injuries can be treated at urgent care centres, freeing up A&E for serious accidents and conditions. You can find out more about when to use A&E here.
Some other alternatives for using A&E include:
Many illnesses and injuries can be treated at home, allowing you to recover in your own surroundings and without the need to visit a doctor. Keeping a first aid kit at home will make sure that you have everything you need to cover minor injuries or common illnesses such as colds or tonsillitis.
Your GP is there for when you have persistent illnesses and injuries and you need medical treatment. If your symptoms aren’t serious and can wait until regular GP hours, wait until you can book an appointment. Most surgeries offer walk-in appointments in the mornings, so you might not need to wait for an appointment if you need more urgent care.
Your local pharmacist can help you with a variety of things, offering advice on how to treat injuries and different medical conditions and advising on medication. For emergency contraception, help with dealing with coughs and colds, etc. – make your pharmacist your first port of call.
Out of hours services
If you can’t wait for an appointment with your GP and you need urgent, but not emergency care – out of hours surgeries can help. A call to 111 will provide you with several options from medical advice to treating yourself at home to making an appointment at your nearest out of hours practice. Unless you’re suffering from a serious life threatening condition, always call 111 before you consider going to A&E.
Reducing your need for A&E
A&E can be avoided by making more sensible choices about your behaviour, particularly during nights out. Alcohol can increase your likelihood of having an accident, while it can also make some people react more violently to situations. Cutting back on how much you drink during a night out can mean you have a better, safer time. The NHS Drinks Tracker app is useful for monitoring your drinking on a night out to stop you going overboard.
Always think twice before you decide to go to A&E – if there’s another solution available, take it to keep waiting rooms free for those in desperate need. Practicing better self-care will not only help you avoid going to A&E, but could leave you healthier too.