It is not uncommon for people to use emergency services as a sense of support when going through a crisis, particularly those who have little support elsewhere. It has been identified that over 5,000 people attend A&E units over 20 times a year and such people are labelled ‘frequent flyers’.
Many regions do not have strategies in place which deal with these patients. However, some have dealt with these patients by restraining them from the ambulance services, sending letters of blame for wasting NHS money and presenting them with anti-social behaviour orders which, if broken, could result in jail time.
However, what happens when a ‘frequent flyer’ contacts emergency services due to a genuine problem and they are dismissed due to their reputation of calling no matter how big or small the injury was?
In an attempt to appropriately deal with ‘frequent flyers’ the NHS is proposing to offer more effective methods of help which aim to reduce their reliance on emergency services. The scheme aims to provide patients with a sense of purpose and social inclusion rather than dismissal. These patients, who are said to be visiting A&E for the wrong reasons will be personally mentored over the phone or over coffee and taught coping mechanisms whilst being given one-to-one coaching. This method is derived from the fact that these patients commonly speak about their social needs rather than medical symptoms. Community activities such as volunteer work is also a tactic as is the provision of help with practical matters such as applying for benefits. These patients are now encouraged to call a non-emergency number instead of the emergency services. When the scheme was trialled in Blackpool, A&E attendances, hospital admissions and 999 calls decreased and money was saved as a result.
The scheme of re-routing and referring repeat patients to the appropriate service such as social services aims to ease the strain on doctors, paramedics and the patients themselves but what if a genuine problem is missed as a result? The initiative is set to be rolled out nationwide in order to tackle the increase in emergency admissions to hospitals and to manage demand.
If you think that you have been a victim of negligence at the hands of a medical professional, contact our specialist Medical Negligence team on 01754 897150 to discuss your case further or alternatively visit www.hodgkinsons.co.uk/medical-negligence for more information.