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Views of frontline staff on frequent attenders are being ignored, study finds

The opinions of frontline staff have often been ignored in research into frequent attenders of emergency departments, according to the authors of this study.

The opinions of frontline staff have often been ignored in research into frequent attenders of emergency departments (EDs), according to the authors of this study.


Staff managing frequent ED attendees are often being ignored in research. Picture: iStock

They interviewed a range of health professionals in NHS settings, including ED nurses, to gather views on the challenges of managing frequent attenders and possible alternative care pathways.

Three groups of frequent attenders emerged from the interviews: people with long-term physical conditions; those with mental health problems; and people with health-related anxiety.

Group variations

Reasons for frequent attendance varied between those three groups, which the researchers say indicates a need for targeted approaches.

Among the interventions suggested were better self-management of long-term conditions, ‘go-to’ places away from the ED for those in mental health crisis, and more training to help ED staff identify and support those with health-related anxiety. Pathways to refer such patients back to their GP would also be beneficial.

The researchers suggest that management of frequent attendance should focus on redirection to and liaison with more appropriate services, either on the hospital site or in the wider community, with input tailored to each identified group.


Ablard S, Coates E, Cooper C et al (2017) Can more appropriate support and services be provided for people who attend the emergency department frequently? National Health Service staff views. Emergency Medicine Journal. 34, 11, 744-748.

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