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“Why haven’t you taken any pain killers?” A patient focused study of the walking wounded in an urban emergency department
  1. M F Nicol,
  2. D Ashton-Cleary
  1. Emergency Department, Bristol Royal Infirmary, Bristol, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr M F Nicol, Emergency Department, Maclesfield Hospital, Victoria Road, Macclesfield, Cheshire, UK; 


Objectives: (1) To assess the proportion of patients of triage category 3–5 presenting to the minor side of an urban emergency department who present without taking prior pain relief, and (2) to describe the reasons why they do not take pain relief for their presenting complaint

Method: By patient interview of a convenience sample of 60 adult patients in the setting of an urban emergency department.

Results: Fifteen of 60 patients had taken analgesia and 45 of 60 (75%) had not. Sixteen reasons were volunteered to the interviewer. Most patients offered one reason only 39 of 45 (87%). The three commonest single reasons cited for not taking pain relief were “don’t like taking tablets” 10 (22%), “run out of tablets” 10 (22%), five (11%) said their “pain not bad enough”. Six (13%) patients cited two reasons for not taking pain relief. Only three (6%) patients indicated that they “did not think about pain relief”. Six (13%) of patients had inappropriate perceptions of how pain killers may interfere with their care.

Conclusion: Most patients presenting with painful conditions to the minor side of an urban emergency department had not taken pain relief. The study highlights there are many different reasons for this and staff should not presume that it was because the patient “did not think about it”. Ongoing education of staff and patients is needed.

  • analgesia

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