Untruthful A&E poster campaign

A&E Departments are an essential part of the NHS provision of emergency care. No-one needs to be told this. However Brent Patient Voice has objected strongly to an advertising campaign promoted by Brent and some nearby CCGs. This is because posters placed around the Borough say “A&E is for life-threatening emergencies only”.

This is strictly not true. We have put it to the CCG that there is a range of serious conditions that are not life threatening but need to be treated in A&E. Moreover delays arising from going to the wrong place for treatment or staying at home can cause conditions to worsen and thus be dangerous.

We asked BPV members for their views on the posters and we are grateful for the response. Everyone who got in touch with us expressed the same concern, i.e. that the statement quoted is not correct and is very unhelpful for patients.

The CCG have not contradicted our argument but they have declined to amend the poster or take it off their website. We have referred the issue to the Advertising Standards Authority and will report on their adjudication.

Meanwhile we were thanked for our feedback and invited to put together some members for a focus group to review the campaign with the advertising agency and to consider the next steps. When this met on 5 November we were surprised that instead of being ready to move forwards the CCG and their agency tabled material (from Hillingdon) designed to justify what they had been doing. Analysing this later we discovered that by opening an Urgent Care Centre (UCC) in 2013 Hillingdon had reduced A&E attendances by over 30%. We also know that at Northwick Park and St Mary’s Paddington all patients are triaged before they can enter the A&E treatment centre.

We remain at a loss to know why with such measures in place there is any need for spending cash on a campaign to deter people from A&E. At the focus group patients recommended that instead the CCG should consider positive steps to raise the profile of Urgent Care Centres and other alternatives to A&E. We await further developments.

Robin Sharp, Interim Chair BPV


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