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More than 175,000 people avoid emergency departments

​More than 175,000 people seeking non-life threatening medical care have avoided NSW hospital emergency departments (EDs), Healthdirect data from NSW Health reveals.

More than 315,000 people in NSW contacted Healthdirect between 1 January and 31 December 2023.Of these, more than half – or over 175,000 people – were referred to a healthcare service other than the ED or Triple Zero (000):

  • 90,474 were referred to a GP;
  • 35,243 were referred to virtual care or urgent care;
  • 3,412 were referred to virtualKIDS care (a statewide service since 19 Dec 2023);
  • 9,682 were referred to other pathways, such as pharmacies or allied health;
  • 18,095 were provided with information; and
  • 19,229 were provided guidance on self-care at home.

The NSW Government is encouraging people to contact Healthdirect for all non-emergency medical queries. By phoning Healthdirect on 1800 022 222, callers will speak with a registered nurse. From there, the nurse can refer them to a GP, virtual or urgent care; a pharmacist or allied health professional; or provide guidance on how to care for their condition from home.

The NSW Health Single Front Door, delivered by Healthdirect, is a critical initiative providing alternatives to emergency department care. It is part of a broader range of measures the NSW Government is undertaking to ease pressure on EDs and improve the accessibility of appropriate care, including:

  • Rolling out 25 urgent care services;
  • Establishing the emergency department taskforce to explore ways to safely reduce ED wait times; and
  • Boosting staff and treatment spaces.

Minister Mark Butler said “We don’t want to see people and their loved ones waiting around emergency departments for lengthy periods of time – it’s not good for them, our staff, or other patients.

“All patients are seen and triaged on arrival at the ED and, as always, the most seriously unwell patients are treated first. During busy times, those with less urgent conditions can experience longer wait times when there are large numbers of seriously unwell patients being prioritised for emergency care.

​“We are embracing new and innovative ways to relieve pressure on our emergency departments by diverting unnecessary presentations.

“When you phone Healthdirect, you will speak to a qualified registered nurse who can organise an appointment with a GP for you, have a GP give you a ring, or guide you on how to care for your condition from your home.

“We want the Healthdirect number to be as second nature as Triple 0.”

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