Emergency Department myth buster

You get your prescriptions free at the Emergency Department

False. If you are not eligible for free prescriptions, you will be charged by the hospital pharmacy if you attend the Emergency Department during office hours and need medication. At night and weekends, you will not be charged on the spot but the bill will be sent to you for payment.

You get seen faster in the Emergency Department

Not always. Real emergencies get seen quickly in the Emergency Department, meaning people who attend with illnesses or injuries that are not serious will be seen after more urgent cases have been dealt with.

Emergencies can come in at any time and this may affect where you are in the queue. This may mean a long wait..

If your illness is not serious or life-threatening, it is better to seek advice from NHS 111 or at www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk, from a pharmacist or from a GP.

GPs are available 24 hours a day, via your GP practice or the Out of Hours GP service. If you are sure you need to see a doctor urgently, explain this to the receptionist and they will do their best to fit you in. In the meantime, you will be in the comfort of your own home while you wait.

If you have a suspected sprain, small wound, burn or eye infection, a minor injuries service may be able to help. Urgent Treatment Centres with X-ray can also diagnose fractures to shoulders, arms and lower legs.

You get to see a specialist in the Emergency Department

Not always. The doctors and nurses in the Emergency Department are specialists in emergencies. However, they are not specialists in the full range of services offered by the hospital, such as surgery or paediatrics (children’s care). If you do need specialist advice, the Emergency Department will arrange for someone to see you – but it may take time. For instance, a surgeon may be performing an operation.

Emergency department doctors and nurses are also not specialists in illnesses such as urinary tract infections, COPD or diabetes. 

Patients are advised to talk to their own GPs to gain specialist advice, treatment and the support they need for such conditions.

It is difficult to get an appointment with your GP quickly so it is better to go straight to the Emergency Department

False. You should always see your GP wherever possible. GP practices across Kent and Medway have made huge efforts to improve access for patients. GPs in many practices will phone you back to discuss your problem with you and offer advice.

Where there is a genuine medical need, GPs are able to prioritise and should be able to see you quickly.

Do not be swayed by past experience. If need to see a GP urgently, phone your practice and let them know.

If you don’t know how to access your GPs out of hours, phone your General Practice phone number and you will be advised.

If you go to Emergency Department you get all your tests and treatment sorted in one go

False. The doctors working in A&E have expertise with injuries and emergency medical conditions, but they don’t always have the specialist experience of your own doctor in the management of general practice conditions.

If you need an ultrasound to assess a possible miscarriage, scans are never performed on the day and your GP is able to book a scan for you, but without the wait.

Even if your own doctor is not available at the time of calling, you may be able to get a second opinion from another doctor within your own practice.

If you need an X-ray, most GPs will be able to tell you whether you need an X-ray based on their experience.

If you call 999 and get taken to hospital by ambulance then you will get seen before other people in the Emergency Department

False. You will be assessed and triaged the same way as anyone else. Remember 999 is only for emergencies. The ambulance service will of course arrange an ambulance if your condition is serious, but your condition may be better dealt with by another more appropriate part of the NHS.