Background: Patients who fail to wait for medical assessment in the emergency department (ED) have been referred to in the international literature as “did not wait” (DNW) or “left without being seen” (LWBS) patients or, indeed, simply as “walkouts”. This is taken as a performance indicator internationally. In common with many countries, Ireland has very considerable problems in the delivery of ED care due largely to inadequate resources and the inappropriate use of EDs as holding bays for admitted patients. This is the first study of this size to profile the DNW phenomenon in Ireland.
Methods: The charts of DNW patients were identified and the DNW status was entered into the ED computer record. Data concerning age, sex, time of arrival, date of arrival, triage category and presenting complaint were recorded.
Results: In the study period there were 11 662 patient attendances, of whom 871 patients (7.47%) did not wait for assessment. Triage category was highly statistically significant, with those in the lowest triage category having the highest numbers not waiting to be seen (p<0.001). Those attending at night (p<0.001) and at the weekend (p = 0.03) were most likely to leave without being assessed.
Conclusion: Failure to provide the service in a timely manner gives rise to patients leaving without receiving the medical assessment they came to obtain. This is a serious clinical problem and puts both those requiring care and those providing it at risk of adverse outcomes.
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