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A&E Myth Busters

A&E (Accident and Emergency) hospital departments should only be used in a critical or life-threatening situation. There are a lot of myths about access to A&E and we have tried to highlight the most common ones below.

"Is A&E always the best place for treatment?"
Answer: NO
If you have been suffering from a medical problem for more than 48 hours and your illness is not serious or life-threatening, it is better to seek advice from your GP, calling NHS 111 or visiting your local pharmacist.

A&E should only be used for serious/critical illness, if you are badly injured or have life-threatening conditions - such as;

  • Unconsciousness
  • Heavy blood loss
  • Suspected broken bones
  • A deep wound such as a stab wound
  • A suspected heart attack
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe burns
  • Severe allergic reaction


"You get seen faster at A&E"

Answer: FALSE 

Emergencies get seen quickly at A&E.  People who attend with illnesses or injuries that are not serious will be seen after more urgent cases have been dealt with.


"Calling 999 for an ambulance gets you to the top of the A&E queue"

Answer: FALSE 

You will be assessed and triaged the same way as anyone else.  Patients are seen based on medical need, not who gets to the hospital first.

"A&E doctors are more expert at dealing with medical problems than your GP"

Answer: FALSE 

Your GP is an expert in general medicine.  A&E doctors are specialists in accidents and emergencies. 

"It is difficult to get an appointment with your GP quickly, so it is better to go straight to A&E"

Answer: FALSE 

You should always see your GP wherever possible.  If you are not able to visit your GP in person, you could phone and ask for a telephone consultation instead. 
Where there is a genuine medical need, GPs are able to prioritise and should be able to see you quickly.
At the UEA Medical Centre, we have an urgent doctor drop-in service for medical problems that cannot wait for the next available routine GP appointment.  This service runs every weekday between the hours of 8.30am-6.30pm, on a 'first come, first served' basis.  Although sometimes there may be quite a long wait, you will be seen by a doctor within a couple of hours, at the latest.  Outside these hours, you should phone NHS 111 to get access to a doctor when we are closed. 

"You get your prescriptions free at A&E"

Answer: FALSE 

If you are not eligible for free prescriptions, you will be charged by the hospital pharmacy if you attend A&E during office hours and need medication.  At night and weekends, you will not be charged on the spot but the bill will be sent to you for payment. 

"If you go to A&E you get all your tests and treatments sorted in one go"

Answer: FALSE 

The doctors working in A&E have expertise with injuries and emergency medical conditions, but they don't always have the specialist experience of your own doctor in the management of general practice conditions. 

"All injuries require x-rays so I may as well go straight to A&E"

Answer: FALSE 

Not all injuries require an x-ray.  Doctors and nurses in general practice have expertise in dealing with and examining minor injuries.  During your GP Surgery's opening hours, it is advisable you go there first, as they may be able to deal with your injury without you needing to attend A&E.

Call 111 when you need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergencyNHS ChoicesThis site is brought to you by My Surgery Website