To determine why patients reattend an A&E department we surveyed 235 patients who returned unscheduled in a one-month period. Sixty-two per cent returned because of persistent symptoms. Sixty-three per cent presented within a week of their initial visit. Only 32% had attempted to see their GP. Thirty-five per cent of all patients claimed that A&E staff had advised them to return if they had problems. Half of the patients did not require treatment and 61% were discharged home. Twenty-one patients had pathology that had been missed on their first visit. Better patient education may minimize misuse of the service allowing better care for those who need it.