A watchdog has warned patients are continuing to use a hospital's accident and emergency department when they could receive more appropriate treatment elsewhere.

Healthwatch Brighton and Hove says there is still confusion among some people about where to go instead of the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton.

A report published by the group said others had struggled to get access to services such as NHS111 and out-of-hours GP.


It researched the experience of 179 people using pharmacies, the Brighton Station walk-in health centre, GP surgeries, out of hours GPs, emergency dental services and A&E at the Royal Sussex and Royal Alexandra Children's Hospital.

Most people surveyed for the report, 80%, believed they attended A&E because they needed emergency treatment.

The main reasons for not using alternative services are a lack of awareness about what is available, previous poor experience, and uncertainty about when to use one service rather than another - especially out of normal working hours.

Most people were generally satisfied but some negative experiences were cited.

There was widespread dissatisfaction with NHS 111 with people reporting delays to calls being answered and not always getting the right response from call handlers.

Some also said they had struggled to get an appointment with their GP.

Healthwatch chairwoman Fran McCabe said: “In this research, many people had good experiences of urgent health care services.

“However, the report shows that there were unpredictable responses in almost all of the urgent care health services, with delays in getting a response and examples of poor responses.

“Many people were also confused about what the alternative urgent health care services provide, particularly out of routine hours.

“Given this, it is likely that people will continue to use A&E even when their needs might be addressed by another service.

“This is particularly serious, as there is national and local concern about inappropriate use of the A& E departments, which will come under increasing pressure over the winter months.”

Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group said it welcomed the report but said the number of people taking part in the survey was very small and may not necessarily represent the views of everyone living and working in the city.

A spokeswoman said: “We would like to reassure people in the city that we continue to work extremely hard on our services to make sure they are offering the very best treatment to people in Brighton and Hove.”

The CCG launched a campaign this winter which highlights what services are available, their opening hours and where they are.

For details, visit www.wecouldbeheroes.nhs.uk