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47% of A&E attendance are not urgent, GHA says as it calls for ‘responsible use’

Photo by Johnny Bugeja,

The GHA is urging members of the public to be responsible when using Accident and Emergency services at St Bernard’s Hospital, with data provided showing that 47% of the attendances were “non-urgent”.

The GHA has issued a community appeal for the “responsible use” of GHA services so that those that need emergency care receive it in a timely manner.

This follows a statement from the GSD on Thursday that said the department was at “breaking point”, after it had received reports of serious concerns being expressed by medical and nursing teams of “unsupported and unsafe working practices” in a “woefully understaffed department”.

“The GHA takes this opportunity to reassure the public of the safe and effective service provided by A&E,” the GHA said in a statement.

“Notwithstanding, the GHA simultaneously acknowledges the temporary issues with staffing levels in substantive posts due to one of its Senior Doctors having had an accident, which has impacted on medical cover.”

As part of the Reset, Restart and Recover programme, the GHA Board and Management team are committed to develop a long-term workforce strategy to resolve these issues across the organisation, the GHA spokesman said.

“In spite of these difficulties, the GHA’s A&E staff have done an amazing job of covering all aspects of clinical care delivery and are working incredibly hard saving lives and supporting patients every day,” the GHA spokesman said.

“The GHA is hugely grateful for everything they do.”

“Data from the A&E department presented to the GHA board on Thursday showed that 47% of A&E attendances were non-urgent and did not require A&E for treatment.”

“In spite of this, all were seen and treated.”

During Thursday’s public GHA Board meeting, the Director General, Professor Patrick Geoghegan, announced that A&E will be brought under the same divisional management as the 111 service, the Gibraltar Ambulance Service and Primary Care.

This will align GHA services to streamline pre-hospital patient care and ensure that patients are seen in the right place at the right time, and by the right healthcare professional, the GHA said.

“I’ve personally worked in A&E during my career, so I often visit the Department when it’s busy,” Prof Geoghegan said.

“Unfortunately, whilst there I met a number of people attending who did not need the A&E service.”

“On one occasion I met two people who said that because there was a two-hour waiting time, they would go home and come back tomorrow: their cases were, therefore, clearly not emergencies.”

“Examples like this support the Board’s findings that too many people are attending A&E who don’t need to be there, and who are therefore impacting on others who are sick and need emergency clinical attention.”

“I am therefore taking this opportunity to appeal to the community to only attend A&E when in need of emergency care.”

It is important to note that recruitment of healthcare professionals is a worldwide problem, a spokesman for the GHA said, in response to the GSD’s concerns on staffing level.

It added that the World Health Organisation predicts a global shortage of 18 million healthcare workers by 2030 compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, the spokesman added.

In the UK NHS, 1 in 10 nursing jobs and one in 17 doctor jobs are unfilled. This equates to a shortage of over 110,000 vacancies across the NHS.

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