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5,000 repeat A&E patients cost the NHS £53m a year

THE NHS spent £53million on 5,000 troubled patients who visited hospital accident and emergency departments at least 20 times each last year — some turning up every day. That works out at £10,600 per patient.

These high-intensity users (HIUs) were mainly young and suffering drug overdoses, chest problems or ‘alcohol-related mental disorders’, a study found. They were concentrated in deprived areas and tended to arrive between 8pm and 6am.

Healthcare analysts Dr Foster, which carried out the investigation, said such patients should have access to alternative treatments and early intervention to take the pressure off A&Es.

‘As well as generating high healthcare costs, HIUs also increase the risk of overcrowding in emergency departments, affecting the safety and care that can be offered to other patients,’ it said.

The study of NHS England data found 31,492 people attended A&Es more than 10 times between June 2017 and May last year. ‘HIUs are patients whose A&E visits have become a significant part of their life and undoing this is not straightforward,’ the study said.

It highlights a trial in Blackpool which cut A&E visits by 90 per cent — saving more than £2million — by offering one-to-one mentoring and community visits and activities.

Earlier this week Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, admitted it may have to abolish the four-hour waiting target for A&E attendees. It has not been met since 2014 as the service struggles to deal with 13million patient visits each year.

‘It doesn’t distinguish between turning up at A&E with a strained finger or turning up with a heart attack,’ he said.

An NHS England spokesman said the Blackpool trial would be rolled out across the country. ‘This is precisely the sort of supportive and positive action that is improving patient care while reducing pressure on services,’ he said.