A THIRD of people who seek treatment at Hinchingbrooke Hospital’s A&E department do not need to be there and are costing the district’s over-stretched health service £405,000 a year, according to a new study.

Figures put together by Hinchingbrooke Hospital reveal that 37.5 per cent of patients seen at casualty between April 2009 and April 2010 had minor ailments and either needed no treatment or could have been helped elsewhere.

The findings come as Huntingdonshire health professionals brace themselves for a £10million drop in healthcare funding from April next year. Across Cambridgeshire there will be a £46m budget deficit.

Hunts Care Partners, which under controversial healthcare reforms will be taking over the responsibility of commissioning care from Cambridgeshire PCT along with Hunts Health from 2013, is appealing to Huntingdonshire residents to think again before visiting A&E.

The group, which is made up of 14 GP practices and represents 94,000 patients across the district, is launching a Choose Well campaign to educate people on the services available.

Every visit to Hinchingbrooke A&E costs taxpayers £59, even if a patient gets fed up of waiting and goes home, the group told The Hunts Post.

Dr Frankie Lasman, of Hunts Care Partners, said: “To make the savings, we need the help of local people, as well as health care professionals, to try to ensure maximum value for money and that everyone continues to get both excellent care when they are ill, and excellent advice about how to look after themselves and keep healthy.

“If a patient is seen by their GP, at a walk in centre, or out of hours centre, it does not cost the NHS any more, as these services have already been paid for on a sort of ‘block’ basis.

“The same applies to advice from NHS direct, or from pharmacies. Obviously advice from a sensible neighbour, family member, or granny is free.”

Records of a random sample of patients from 13 practices of Hunts Care Partners who had attended A&E between July and December 2010 were studied in detail.

Of the 1,400 cases reviewed, half could have been dealt with by a GP and 45 per cent of cases could have been seen during practice opening hours. Fifty-one per cent of the cases did not need any treatment at all.

Dr Lasman said: “Every local GP practice offers emergency appointments every working day, so there should be no need to go to A&E with minor problems.

“GPs are also much more experienced in dealing with these problems, and might offer better facilities and care, especially for babies and small children.

“So we need patients to do their bit and ‘Choose Well.’ The message is, if you are not sure, ask your pharmacist, GP, walk-in centre, or out-of-hours doctors for advice.”

David Monk, general manager and emergency care lead at Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust, said: “We do actively encourage and promote the Choose Well Campaign and the appropriate use of the emergency care facilities.

“Any reduction in the levels of patients coming into the trust would mean that our staff can focus on the more urgent cases, which would also save the health economy money and reduce the waiting times for patients.”