24/08/2017 05:32 BST | Updated 24/08/2017 05:36 BST

How You Could Help Ease The Pressure On A&E

It's one of the key questions of today that urgently needs answering - how can we reduce the pressure on A&E?

In England, A&E departments have targets to see, treat and then either admit or discharge at least 95% of patients within four hours. But they are struggling to achieve this.

The reasons why are complex, reflecting wider pressures on the NHS and social care. And while this is ultimately a problem for the big decision-makers to resolve, new research from the British Red Cross suggests we can all contribute.

The study, commissioned by the Red Cross and conducted by the University of the West of England, Bristol and the University of Bristol, found that over a third of people surveyed attended A&E because they were worried and didn't know what to do.

More than half said they had sought advice before attending A&E, mostly from their GP surgery or relatives. Many expressed a desire to use A&E services appropriately, but found it difficult to know whether a health problem was severe enough to need urgent care.

The most common reasons for attending A&E were pain, falls, and other types of accidents resulting in minor injuries. Treating fever in children was another common reason for seeking help.

Clearly, many of us are confused about when and where to go for help. The fact that more than half sought advice elsewhere before attending A&E shows how difficult it can be to assess this.

Yet at the same time, some of the most common reasons given for attending A&E were ones which could have been easily treated with a little knowledge of first aid. Unfortunately, the study found first aid was rarely attempted before attending A&E. Health-care professionals have called first aid a 'lost skill'.

To help ease the pressure on A&E, clearer public information is definitely needed. But if more of us learnt first aid we could also contribute by having both a better understanding of when to go to A&E, and more confidence around making those decisions.

This is particularly true for several groups of patients who, according to the research, use A&E frequently. First aid learning tailored to their needs could make a real difference - such as teaching parents of young children how to manage fever and vomiting.

Anyone interested in learning first aid can do so easily enough, right now. At the Red Cross we offer a range of ways for people to lean from a free mobile app, to hands-on courses.

But ultimately we would like everyone to have the opportunity to learn first aid at key stages throughout their lives, starting at school. This would help to equip a generation of people with the first aid skills they need to help in an emergency.

We already know that first aid can and does save lives - we released a study last year which found that up to 59% of 'pre-hospital' deaths from injury could potentially be prevented if more people stepped in with some simple first aid.

There's a general perception that first aid is complicated, but it's actually easy to learn and simple to do. This latest research shows how we could all help to ease the pressure on A&E if we knew a little first aid.

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