ALMOST two thirds of people who attended A&E at Northampton General Hospital in a 12-month period were not taken by ambulance.
Accident and emergency doctors and nurses have been consistently seeing huge numbers of people each day for more than a year leading to a raft of measures being rolled out by the NHS to relieve the department.
Statistics published yesterday show that between 2010 and 2011 more than 59 per cent of A&E patients got there under their own steam, with only a quarter needing an ambulance.
Watchdog members yesterday questioned whether all those ‘walk-ins’ really needed emergency treatment.
Moya McVicar, of the patient watchdog Northamptonshire LINk, said: “Many people do get someone to drive them to hospital and they are genuine A&E cases.
“But I think there are huge numbers who don’t know what else to do when they feel a bit poorly but go to hospital. The doctor’s surgery shuts at 5pm so they think the only other place is Northampton General.”
NHS Northamptonshire has been desperately trying to get the message out that there are a range of NHS services for patients between their doctor and A&E.
The NHS Direct telephone service, pharmacies, and the minor injuries unit should all be considered before choosing the emergency department, health bosses say.
Elsewhere, the new figures suggest that, despite its problems, NGH is not faring much worse than other English hospitals.
The average waiting time after an initial assessment between April 2010 and March 2011 was two hours 28 minutes at NGH, just two minutes longer than the national average for England.
NHS Northamptonshire bosses have been struggling to find a pattern in the type of person they need to target with their ‘choose the right medical service’ message.
But national statistics published yesterday show most people visiting the emergency department in a 12-month period were aged in their twenties.