Should I go to the emergency department?

Should I go to the emergency department?10 Jun 2024

Sometimes it can be hard to decide if a condition warrants a trip to the emergency department (ED). When illnesses or injury strikes it’s often unexpected, usually at the most inconvenient of times, and can be distressing. It’s a perfect storm of urgency and uncertainty that can compound and make it even harder to decipher if, when, and where you should seek emergency care!

While we always advocate for getting checked out by a qualified clinician, not every condition warrants a trip to the nearest hospital. So, here are some options, for alternate routes to care, to consider ahead of the next inevitable accident or bout of sickness…

Is it a serious medical emergency?

If the patient has lost consciousness or been in a serious accident, you need to seek immediate in-person care. For life or limb threatening conditions, chest pain, difficulty breathing, severe pain, and bad burns call 111 for an ambulance or go straight to your nearest hospital emergency department.

Why shouldn’t you go to the ED when it’s not serious?

Using hospital EDs for non-life-threatening issues will lengthen wait times and divert resources from those people suffering serious emergencies who really need it. A decision to visit the ED should be determined by severity not a desire for immediacy.

It’s not life-threatening, but I still need treatment right now…

Minor accidents and illnesses, that require timely intervention, are best treated at an urgent care clinic (sometimes referred to as an A&E or after-hours clinic). If the condition is suitable to be seen remotely then start a video call by visiting If you need to see a doctor in-person then you’ll need to travel to your nearest urgent care clinic.

Are you enrolled with a GP and can it wait?

If you’re enrolled with a local primary care practice, then that’s the best place to go for ongoing health issues and minor medical concerns. If you can access an appointment, your family doctor or GP will be able to provide the best continuity of care. Please note that most GPs offices reserve a small number of appointment spaces each day for most urgent cases – so give them a call before assuming that you can’t get an appointment.

Still not sure where to turn?

If you’re ever in doubt, please start a consult with us and let our expert emergency doctors guide you in the right direction. Go to to access the website portal 24/7. It’s quick and easy to create an account and pre-pay, then you’ll be video chatting with a doctor in no time. You’ll be reassured with expert advice - and have access to prescriptions or referrals as necessary.