‘Fear culture’ blamed for patient rises in Sheffield

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MORE and more people are attending accident and emergency in Sheffield for minor problems because of a ‘culture of fear’, a senior city doctor said today.

The Northern General Hospital’s A&E unit has reported rising numbers of adults visiting with complaints that could have been treated elsewhere, clogging up the system and bringing bugs such as norovirus into the hospitals.

Dr Richard Oliver, clinical director of NHS Sheffield, said: “A&E units across the country, not just in Sheffield, have seen an increasing demand put upon it, both in adults and children.

“I think this is because people are generally more worried about their health than they used to be.

“Over the last five to 10 years we have created a culture that allows people to access care almost immediately, and the only way they can do that seems to be through A&E services.

“We have generated more and more demand on the NHS by giving people information. What we haven’t done quite as well, is telling them how to use that information safely and wisely.

“For example, at the moment everyone seems to think that if you have a rash it means meningitis and quite clearly it doesn’t.

“Most chest pains are not heart attacks, but we have generated a culture of fear.”

He added: “Education is part of it and it’s about having access to simple guidance - when it is important to be concerned, when it is reasonable not to be.”