Patients with minor injury frequently present to the ED in pain, but without having taken any prior analgesia.1 This can be frustrating for ED medical staff if they believe self-administration of analgesia would have obviated the need for an ED visit. Some clinicians might consider these presentations to be inappropriate attendances. Previous studies have, however, identified a discrepancy between health professional and patient perspectives, and even between different health professionals, regarding ‘inappropriate’ attendances.2–4 Coleman et al. studied low-acuity ED patients to ascertain the likely usefulness of alternative immediate care services in reducing ED attendance in Sheffield, UK. They estimated that despite 55% of the study group being potentially manageable by providers other than ED, only 7% of those deemed suitable would be likely to go elsewhere for care, as a result of disparities between the professional view and the patient's perceptions of the seriousness of the health problem.5 Similarly, Masso et al. in New South Wales found that patients were significantly more likely to consider that their problem was serious or urgent than clinicians.6 On the other hand, a study from Wales of low-acuity attendees found that 27% were dissatisfied with their ED visit. Of these, 55% complained of dismissive attitudes of doctors.7
The present study, therefore, does not examine the appropriateness of the ED presentation, but instead asks what patients with minor injury hope to gain from their ED visit? And why have they not taken analgesia? A better understanding of why patients with minor injuries attend ED and what their expectations are of their visit will help us to better meet their needs, and might aid in planning ways to meet the needs of this patient group outside of the ED setting.