University Of Tasmania

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Low-acuity presentations to regional emergency departments: What is the issue?

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 16:17 authored by Cheek, C, Allen, P, Lizzi ShiresLizzi Shires, Parry, D, Ruigrok, M

Objective: To explore GP-referrals and self-referrals to EDs and factors associated with patients seeking low-acuity care at ED.

Method: Retrospective analysis of all ED presentations to Mersey Community Hospital and North West Regional Hospital (Tasmania) between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2013. Cross-sectional survey of patients presenting to the EDs for care triaged as low-acuity.

Results: There were 255  365 ED presentations in the retrospective data: 11  252 (4.4%) GP-referrals and 218  205 (85.4%) self-referrals. At ED 49% of GP-referrals were triaged ATS 4 or 5 and 35% of self-referrals were triaged ATS 1-3. There were 138 (84.2%) low-acuity patients who completed the survey; predominantly, all attended for acute injury or illness. Single point-of-care convenience was most commonly selected (71%) as a reason for attending ED.

Conclusions: Over 85% of patients who seek emergency care in this region self-refer, so understanding health-seeking behaviour is important. Most low-acuity patients are acutely injured or unwell, and the decision to go to ED is based on their perception of accessibility of expertise aligned with their need. The term 'GP-type' is misleading in this context and should not be used. Providing low-acuity care in parallel with providing a specialised emergency service meets the needs of the local community and is likely to be the lowest cost model in a regional and rural area. Funding models must reflect the actual cost of delivering this important service rather than presentation types.


Publication title

Emergency medicine Australasia








Tasmanian School of Medicine


Blackwell Publishers

Place of publication


Rights statement

© 2015 Australasian College for Emergency Medicine and Australasian Society for Emergency Medicine

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Rural and remote area health