accessibility & help

Easing the pressure on A&E: Could first aid education help?

A new report by the British Red Cross has found that first aid education could contribute towards easing the pressure on A&E.

The study, commissioned by the Red Cross and conducted by the University of the West of England, Bristol and the University of Bristol, found that:

  • Over a third of all survey participants said they attended A&E because they were ‘worried and didn’t know what to do’.
  • More than half of the people surveyed in the study had sought advice before going to A&E, e.g. from their GP surgery or a relative.
  • Patients struggle to assess severity of health problems and know where best to get help.
  • First aid is a ‘lost skill’ – health workers say most patients haven’t attempted first aid before coming to hospital.

A Red Cross volunteer sits with a woman outside A&E© Info

Healthcare professionals interviewed in the study identified seven groups of patients who use A&E frequently and could potentially benefit from first aid interventions, either directly or from a carer. These are:

  • Patients with long-term health conditions, including mental illness
  • Children / parents of young children
  • Older people, especially those who are frail or have multiple health needs
  • People who use substances
  • People referred to A&E by their employer or a first-aider at work
  • People receiving health and social care at home or in community settings
  • The general public experiencing self-limiting infections and minor injuries.

What this study tells us

The study concludes that first aid education has a role to play in supporting people using A&E by giving the general public greater knowledge and confidence:

  • to use over-the-counter medicines
  • to self-manage minor illnesses and injuries at home
  • and to successfully navigate the complex range of urgent care services available.

Read more about the Red Cross’ response to the research findings in our summary report.


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