Objectives: To identify factors that influence the attendance of children with non-urgent medical problems to a tertiary paediatric ED and to define parental expectations of the hospital visit.
Methods: A questionnaire administered to a convenience sample of 200 parents/carers who attended the paediatric ED and whose children were categorized as having non-urgent problems that had been present for at least 4 weeks. Subsequent outpatient attendances were then analysed retrospectively.
Results: Most patients had visited a general practitioner but remained unhappy with the outcome of the consultation. The hospital was expected to provide immediate diagnosis and initiate appropriate treatment by the vast majority of parent. Only four patients required admission.
Conclusions: The expectations of parents who attend the paediatric ED with children who have non-urgent chronic complaints are high. Rapid access to outpatient clinics might provide an acceptable alternative for these patients, and free valuable ED resources.