Healthwatch Northamptonshire spent two weeks in May talking to people in A&E waiting rooms in Northampton General Hospital (NGH), Kettering General Hospital (KGH) and Corby Urgent Care Centre.
Healthwatch volunteers and staff spoke to 565 people during 69 visits to the waiting areas.
Over half (303 people - 54%) had tried to get help from elsewhere before going to A&E or the Urgent Care Centre.
Of these, 193 people (64%) had tried to get help from their GP practice, including 35 people (18%) who mentioned being unable to get a timely appointment at their GP practices as the reason they came to A&E/Urgent Care.
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Commenting on the report, Healthwatch Northamptonshire’s Chief Executive, Rosie Newbigging said “The report indicates that we need to look further into the
services people try to access before arriving at A&E or Urgent Care, particularly to understand the factors associated with frequent usage.
“This should include looking at the whole health system, from primary care and the 111 service and ambulance service, to hospital discharge and community support. We also encourage local decision makers to continue to invest in ways to improve access to primary care, such as increasing the number of emergency GP appointments, exploring the use of walk in centres, and reviewing out of hours access to help relieve pressure on A&E and urgent care.”
Healthwatch heard that most people were happy with how they had been dealt with by staff and received some “very positive” comments about the care received.
The watchdog also heard a “much smaller” number of negative comments about the environment and how people felt about staff attitudes, including specific poor
Another pattern that the Healthwatch survey picked up was patients returning multiple times, something that may help explain why NHS information aimed at persuading people to ‘Choose Well’ has not had a huge impact on A&E figures.
For example, a total of 253 people (45% of those surveyed) had been emergency department patients previously in the past 12 months.
And Corby Urgent Care Centre had more regular/returning visitors than the other two units – 76 of the 112 people spoken to at Corby (68%).
A spokesman said: “One person told us they had been to Corby Urgent Care Centre 60 times and another person said they had been to NGH A&E 40 times in the last 12