accessibility & help

Red Cross report shows first aid ‘could help ease the pressure on A&E’

24 August 2017

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

The study revealed that over a third of people surveyed attended A&E because they were ‘worried and didn’t know what to do’.

More than half of those surveyed said they had sought advice before attending A&E, mostly from their GP surgery or relatives.

People expressed a desire to use A&E services appropriately, but found it difficult to know whether a health problem was severe enough to need urgent care.

The most common reasons for attending A&E were pain, falls, and other types of accidents resulting in minor injuries.

Treating fever in children was another common reason for seeking help.

The case for first aid

The report, commissioned by the Red Cross and conducted by the University of the West of England, Bristol and the University of Bristol, suggests first aid is a ‘lost skill’.

Health-care professionals state in the report that most patients have not attempted first aid before coming to hospital.

They identified seven groups of patients who use A&E frequently and could potentially benefit from first aid interventions:

  • 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 (those that will get better on their own like a sore throat) and minor injuries.

Joe Mulligan, British Red Cross head of first aid education, said: “Clearer public information and first aid education could help people access the right type of care at the right point in time – which could ease some of the pressure on A&E, and reduce patient suffering.

“What’s worrying is that there is a lot of confusion, with many people unsure how to correctly assess their health issue and unable to navigate the health system accordingly.

“The research shows that patients are seeking advice before attending A&E, highlighting how difficult it is for people to work out which service best suits their needs.

“Ultimately we would like everyone to have the opportunity to learn first aid at key stages throughout their lives, starting at school.

“This would help to equip a generation of people with the first aid skills they need to help in an emergency.” 

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