Only one in five patients visiting an under-pressure A&E unit in Yorkshire said it was an emergency, a survey has found.
The poll of patients in Barnsley found the majority wanted reassurance, with some saying getting an appointment with their GP could be difficult and that they had nowhere else to go.
The findings come as deepening pressures on hospitals across the country are already causing mounting concern ahead of winter. Prime Minister David Cameron last week announced plans to improve access to GPs at weekends amid warnings staff shortages are leaving the NHS at “breaking point”.
The poll of nearly 1,000 people in January and February discovered only 22 per cent of patients in Barnsley’s A&E considered their condition an emergency.
Adults mainly attended with back pain, sprains and strains and children with vomiting, high temperatures and rashes.
Around one in nine patients were children aged up to five, one in five were aged 65 and over but as many as 13 per cent were men aged 19-21.
GP Nick Balac, chairman of NHS Barnsley Clinical Commissioning Group which commissionined the study, said: “We have recently introduced Saturday opening in some GP surgeries and are in the process of rolling out a GP telephone appointment service which will make it easier for people to get to see their GP.”
Hospital chief executive Diane Wake said people visiting for non-emergencies could mean others not getting the care they needed. “The emergency department should only be used in the case of a serious or life-threatening situation,” she said.