Majority of Brits think A&E services are overused

A new survey has revealed that the British population are fairly united in the belief that A&Es are overused, with 86 per cent of respondents thinking that too many people unnecessarily use A&E services.

The National Centre for Social Research’s British Social Attitudes Survey reveals significant differences in perspectives by a range of socio-demographic factors, such as area deprivation, age, young children in the household and gender. For example, the centre states that those living in deprived areas are more likely to prefer A&Es over their GP to get tests done quickly, find it more difficult to get an appointment with their GP and think A&E doctors are more knowledgeable than GPs.

Looking into overused A&E services, the 86 per cent figure rises to 94 per cent for people aged over 65 and drops to 79 per cent for those aged 18 to 24 years. When asked whether they had actually accessed A&E services in the previous 12 months for themselves or others, 32 per cent of the public and more than half of parents with a child under the age of five report they have done so at least once. In contrast, 29 per cent of those without young children in the household say they have visited A&Es in the same period.

Analysing GP appointments, 51 per cent of respondents agree that it is hard to get an appointment with a GP, with 36 per cent of the public reporting that they prefer NHS services where they do not need to make an appointment. In fact, 17 per cent of all Brits prefer A&Es to GPs because they can get tests done quickly. The figure rises to 29 per cent when looking at people in the most deprived areas.

Additionally, 65 per cent of the total population have confidence in GPs, while 11 per cent state they do not have much confidence. In contrast, just 19 per cent of Brits agree that doctors at A&Es are more knowledgeable than GPs.

Alicia O’Cathain, director of the Medical Care Research Unit at the University of Sheffield, said: “Today’s findings illustrate that while the majority of the British population are satisfied with A&E services, there are marked differences in attitudes and understanding between different social groups when it comes to views on access and confidence in A&Es and GPs. This may contribute to the over-use of critical emergency care functions. It’s clear that there are lessons in these findings which will help government to better understand and support those least confident in using health services and shape policy moving forward.”

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