Non-urgent emergency department attendances in children: a retrospective observational analysis



A significant proportion of ED attendances in children may be non-urgent attendances (NUAs), which could be better managed elsewhere. This study aimed to quantify NUAs and urgent attendances (UAs) in children to ED and determine which children present in this way and when.


Dataset extracted from the CUREd research database containing linked data on the provision of care in Yorkshire and Humber. Analysis focused on children’s ED attendances (April 2014–March 2017). Summary statistics and odds ratios (OR) comparing NUAs and UAs were examined by: age, mode and time of arrival and deprivation alongside comparing summary statistics for waiting, treatment and total department times.


NUAs were more likely in younger children: OR for NUA in children aged 1–4 years, 0.82 (95% CI: 0.80 to 0.83), age 15 years, 0.39 (95% CI: 0.38 to 0.40), when compared with those under 1 year. NUAs were more likely to arrive out of hours (OOHs) compared with in hours: OR 1.19 (95% CI 1.18 to 1.20), and OOHs arrivals were less common in older children compared with those under 1 year: age 1–4 years, 0.87 (95% CI: 0.84 to 0.89) age 15 years, 0.66 (95% CI: 0.63 to 0.69). NUAs also spent less total time in the ED, with a median (IQR) of 98 min (60–147) compared with 127 min (80–185) for UAs.


A substantial proportion of ED attendances in children are NUAs. Our data suggest there are particular groups of children for whom targeted interventions would be most beneficial. Children under 5 years would be such a group, particularly in providing accessible, timely care outside of usual community care opening hours.

References: Simpson RM, O’Keeffe C, Jacques RM, Stone T, Hassan A, Mason SM. Non-urgent emergency department attendances in children: a retrospective observational analysis. Emergency Medicine Journal. 2022;39(1):17-22




Simpson R, O’Keeffe C, Stone T, Jacques R, Mason S

Research Fellow

Senior Research Fellow

Theme Lead

Theme Manager

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