Article Text

Download PDFPDF
The effect of a separate stream for minor injuries on accident and emergency department waiting times
  1. M W Cooke1,
  2. S Wilson2,
  3. S Pearson3
  1. 1Centre for Primary Health Care Studies, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
  2. 2Department of Primary Care and General Practice, Division of Primary Care Public and Occupational Health, University of Birmingham, UK
  3. 3New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr M W Cooke, Emergency Medicine Research Group, Centre for Primary Health Care Studies, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK;


Introduction: To decrease waiting times within accident and emergency (A&E) departments, various initiatives have been suggested including the use of a separate stream of care for minor injuries (“fast track”). This study aimed to assess whether a separate stream of minor injuries care in a UK A&E department decreases the waiting time, without delaying the care of those with more serious injury.

Intervention: A doctor saw any ambulant patients with injuries not requiring an examination couch or an urgent intervention. Any patients requiring further treatment were returned to the sub-wait area until a nurse could see them in another cubicle.

Method: Data were retrospectively extracted from the routine hospital information systems for all patients attending the A&E department for five weeks before the institution of the separate stream system and for five weeks after.

Results: 13 918 new patients were seen during the 10 week study period; 7117 (51.1%) in the first five week period and 6801 (49.9%) in the second five week period when a separate stream was operational. Recorded time to see a doctor ranged from 0–850 minutes. Comparison of the two five week periods demonstrated that the proportion of patients waiting less than 30 and less than 60 minutes both improved (p<0.0001). The relative risk of waiting more than one hour decreased by 32%. The improvements in waiting times were not at the expense of patients with more urgent needs.

Conclusions: The introduction of a separate stream for minor injuries can produce an improvement in the number of trauma patients waiting over an hour of about 30%. If this is associated with an increase in consultant presence on the shop floor it may be possible to achieve a 50% improvement. It is recommended that departments use a separate stream for minor injuries to decrease the number of patients enduring long waits in A&E departments.

  • waiting times
  • minor injury stream

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding: none.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.

Linked Articles

  • Peter Driscoll Jim Wardrope