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When should I go to ED?

If an ambulance is needed, call 111, the emergency phone number in NZ. Non-emergency cases often cause over-crowding, resulting in a long waiting time and less immediate attention for emergencies. Knowing whether your problem is an emergency or not, and what to do, and where to go will prevent misuse of the ED.

Emergency Departments across New Zealand are struggling to cope with ever-increasing numbers so when is it appropriate to go to ED?

The role of ED is to deal with acute severe illness or injury. Generally, you should visit ED or call an ambulance for life-threatening emergencies, such as:

  • loss of consciousness

  • acute confused state and fits that are not stopping

  • persistent, severe chest pain

  • breathing difficulties

  • severe bleeding that cannot be stopped

The ED at Christchurch public hospital offers access 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. At ED a doctor or nurse will assess your condition and decide on further action.

If you’re unsure whether it’s an emergency phone Healthline: 0800 611 116. Healthline has trained staff who will tell you what you should do.

  • If it’s not an emergency phone your GP and make an appointment, or

  • if it’s after hours, go to your local Urgent Care or after-hours medical centre or phone your normal doctor's surgery (their answering service will help you).

Analysis shows that over 40% of presentations to ED, including presentations by ambulance and referrals from GPs, are admitted to hospital. However, a significant number of self-presenting patients could be managed appropriately in the community, either at their GP practice or at an Urgent Care or after-hours facility.

You should note that if you present at ED with a non-life threatening condition then you may have a long wait before being seen. For these conditions you may well be seen more quickly at an Urgent Care Clinic or After-Hours GP surgery. In Christchurch the three Urgent Care Clinics are the 24hr Surgery (401 Madras St), Moorhouse Medical and Riccarton Clinic.