The objective was to study the patterns of emergency department visits and to make recommendations on ways of improving the service. Patients' demographic data, diagnoses, source of referral and follow-up were entered onto a database. Three thousand seven hundred consecutive patients' visits over a six-week period were entered. The average daily attendance ranged between 80-100 people. 54% of patients were self-referrals. 20% had a previous visit to the hospital. 17% were referred from a GP, 5% from another hospital and 3% from opticians. Superficial injury to the eye and ocular adnexae was the most common diagnostic category. 56% of patients were discharged at the first visit. 23% returned for review to casualty. 14% were referred to OPD, 3% directly to a consultant for review and 1% were admitted to hospital. Waiting times for consultation for patients was highly variable ranging from thirty minutes to five hours, mean two hours. The department provides a service far in excess of its defined function. Non urgent problems accounted for as much as 60-70% of all emergency department visits. Improvement of ophthalmic training of GPs, introduction of an ophthalmic triage system and expansion of outpatient services is recommended so that casualty remains a genuine emergency service and not a primary care service with uncontrollable numbers and unacceptable waiting times for patients.