Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Self referral to accident and emergency department: patients' perceptions.

British Medical Journal 1988; 297 doi: (Published 05 November 1988) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1988;297:1179
  1. S. Singh
  1. Sydenham Green Health Centre, London.


    A study was conducted (a) to assess the number of patients registered with a south London general practice who over 11 weeks referred themselves to an accident and emergency department, (b) to identify the characteristics of those patients, and (c) to determine their perceptions of the services and resources available within their general practices and of the role of accident and emergency departments. Two hundred and thirty four patients referred themselves to a casualty department during the study period, of whom 217 (93%) were interviewed by means of a semistructured questionnaire. Of the 217 patients interviewed, only 15 had tried to contact their general practitioner before attending the casualty department. Eighty nine patients considered that their problem was urgent and required immediate attention and many that they would need an x ray examination. A substantial minority of patients thought that their doctor would not be available. It is concluded that patients' perceptions of their problems and of access to their doctors are the main determinants of self referral to a casualty department. These findings have important implications for patient education.