NHS Digital data shows roughly 21,905 admissions had a primary diagnosis of ‘nothing abnormal detected’ at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Worthing Hospital, St Richard’s and Southlands Hospital.
These attendances accounted for 14 per cent of all A&E activity at the trust over the period – which was among the highest proportions of 137 trusts which submitted data.
Such visits cost the hospital trust around £3.3 million last year, the figures show.
The NHS says A&E is for serious and life-threatening emergencies, with patients urged to call 111 over other urgent illnesses.
But the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said many people anxious about their health have ‘no alternative’ but to turn to A&E for treatment.
Its vice president, Dr Adrian Boyle, said: “They may attend because there is simply no alternative, or they are directed there by an external agency.
“If patients are unsure about attending A&E or if they have a non-life-threatening condition then they should call NHS 111 where they will be directed to the best care for their particular condition.
“But crucially patients won’t know the severity of their condition without clinical expertise or examination.
“Sometimes cases do show no abnormality and at those times we will discharge the patients appropriately.
“However, there are times when we do discover something serious and their attendance may save their life as we are able to swiftly provide appropriate treatment.”
He said concern over pressures on A&E departments should not be shouldered by the public, adding that an ‘adequately staffed and funded’ health service can meet patient and community demand.
Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our emergency departments are always open for those with serious illness or injury, but they are not the best place for everyone to seek help. By calling NHS 111 first or visiting 111.nhs.uk, you can make sure you’re getting the right care for your needs, in a more-timely way.
“For example, NHS 111 can now book you into a nearby GP surgery, one of our new Urgent Treatment Centres or, if needed, give you an arrival time at A&E.
“So please, help us help you by calling NHS 111 first. If, however, it is a genuine medical emergency, call 999 or come direct to our emergency department.”