A significant number of patients leave the emergency department (ED) before being treated or after treatment has been initiated but not completed. This paper reports the findings of a study examining the demographics and characteristics of those who did not wait for treatment in an ED in Melbourne. A telephone survey was undertaken to examine the reasons they did not wait. Data were collected in four one-month periods across the year and patients were telephoned within 72 h of their departure from the ED. The majority of those who did not wait were Australian Triage Scale category 4 or 5, male, and with a mean age of 37 years. Sixty per cent of those who did not wait presented between the hours of 6 pm and 6 am and waited an average of 130 min before leaving. Over fifty per cent (127) of those surveyed (n = 243) sought treatment elsewhere and over a third (72) thought their problem was inappropriate for an ED. However, the need for communication with patients in the waiting room should not be under-played.
- Did not wait
- Emergency department