BMA report

Report on increasing urgent care use

We commissioned a report to identify patient and staff perspectives on the reasons for attendances at emergency departments

Location: England
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Tuesday 8 September 2020
Topics: NHS delivery and workforce
NHS Structure Article Illustration

Urgent care is a focal point of rising demand on the NHS. 

We commissioned the University of Sheffield to explore the potential reasons for patients’ greater reliance upon urgent care.


What you'll get from this report

  • Analysis of the proportion of patients who could
    reasonably be managed in alternative healthcare settings.
  • An understanding of patients' reasons for attending emergency and urgent care services.
  • An understanding about emergency and urgent care staff perspectives on why patients attend the ED.
  • Possible solutions to the challenges associated with rising demand.


Key findings

  • A large proportion of attendances at emergency departments are unnecessary.
  • Low patient acceptability of, or low capacity within, alternative care services including general practice contributes to the problem.
  • ‘Quick wins’, derived from raising public awareness of alternatives to A&E, are unlikely to be effective at managing demand.
  • There is a growing preference for convenience of care and a tendency toward reassurance seeking behaviour among some patients.
  • Urgent care staff are working intensely, sometimes at a cost to their own morale, to provide a service of which they and patients can be proud.
  • Patient surveys
  • Staff interviews
  • Data analysis
  • Attendance by age group and time
  • Reasons for attending ED over other settings
  • Possible interventions
  • Discussion and analysis