Queensland Health has asked Australians to reconsider presenting to an emergency department for minor conditions which could be treated at a pharmacy or GP

According to Queensland Health’s Chief Clinical Information Officer Professor Keith McNeil, an average 32% of the 155,000 ED presentations across Queensland public hospitals every month could be handled elsewhere.

In the first six months of 2018, there have been 33 presentations for acne; 13 for hiccups, 1,505 for repeat prescriptions and 1,354 for medical certificates. (See below for the full list.)

With the number of patients presenting needing care for urgent and complex conditions, Professor McNeil said, the minor ailments presentations put significant pressure on ED staff.

“In the first six months of this year, more than 290,000 presentations were categorised as GP-type, meaning they could or should have been treated by GPs or other clinical professionals and not in the emergency department,” he said.

“Of those, we’ve had presentations for acne, hiccups, ingrown nails, blisters, warts and sunburn – not to mention the thousands of sprains and bruises our ED nurses and physiotherapists treat.

“While they may well have required some sort of medical or other clinical attention, the emergency department is not the right place for these kinds of ailments.

“We continue to have Queenslanders turning up for prescription refills, medical certificates and contraception management.

“The emergency department is not the place for these things – by definition, it’s there to treat emergencies.”

He directed Queenslanders with minor ailments to go to a GP or pharmacy instead.

“Pharmacies are great for helping with conditions such as cold and flu symptoms, skin conditions and irritations, minor or mild allergy symptoms, mild headaches, diarrhoea or constipation, or sleeping problems,” Prof McNeil said.

“GPs can treat many conditions you might otherwise go to an emergency department for, such as removing stitches, sprains and strains, bites and stings, many viral and other infections, and assessment of prolonged illness or injury.”

Trent Twomey, Queensland Branch President of the Pharmacy Guild, said that it was a “worrying” trend that people were disinclined to visit a GP for such ailments, “due to excessive costs and long waiting times associated with a GP visit”.

He said expanding the scope of pharmacists, a measure currently under consideration in the Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry, would deliver significant gains for the state’s health system.

Minor ailments presenting at EDs

Examples of non-urgent ED presentations between 1 January 2018 and 30 June 2018

#

Acne

33

Blister

4

Hiccups

13

Ingrown nail

43

Insect bite

18

Medical certificate

1,354

Repeat prescription

1,505

Contraceptive management

75

Bruise

1,646

Splinter

2,098

Attention to surgical dressings and sutures

6,805

Urinary tract infection

3,846

Nose bleed

530

Warts

80

Sunburn

133

Cough

1,110

Muscle cramp or spasm

310

Nappy rash

114

Heartburn

1

Ear wax blockage

612

Localised swelling

1,571

Motion sickness

3

Nightmares

2

Minor burn

854

Gingivitis

97

Sore throat

697

Splinter

2,098