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Sorting patients: the weakest link in the emergency care system
  1. H Snooks1,
  2. J Nicholl2
  1. 1Centre for Health Information Research and Evaluation, Swansea University, Swansea, UK
  2. 2Medical Care Research Unit, Sheffield University, Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 H Snooks
 Centre for Health Information Research and Evaluation, Swansea University, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK;h.a.snooks{at}

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National Health Service (NHS) policy recognises the importance of providing appropriate care at the right time and in the right place to people who seek emergency medical aid, so that those who can benefit from an immediate response and treatment at the highest level of care are identified, and those who can wait can receive advice or be directed to an appropriate service for further care with less urgency. Department of Health policy documents1–4 have portrayed a vision in which the spectrum of providers, such as emergency departments, general practitioners, the ambulance service, NHS Direct (the UK …

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