Re-thinking the work of help seeking and the knotty problem of 'inappropriate attendances' to emergency departments

Park House, Edgbaston Park Road, Birmingham
Tuesday 28 January 2020 (12:00-14:00)

Jennie Oldfield:

Urgent and emergency care is fragmented, with increasingly blurred or confusing boundaries between services. Attention has focussed on the problem of ‘inappropriate attendances’ by people with minor or urgent care needs, to emergency departments.

Speaker: Professor Catherine Pope, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, Oxford

Medical sociologists have described the material and psycho-social determinants of help-seeking, but in our recent work looking at urgent care we decided to focus on the ‘work’ people do when they use urgent care services. We conducted 4 citizens panels and 141 semi-structured interviews (samplng to represent potential differences in care needs and socio-demographic characteristics) and used these data to outline 3 types of work involved in making sense of urgent care. We argue that people do not deliberately make ‘wrong’ decisions, rather, their choices are a product of ‘hard work’ by individuals and social networks. From this we developed a conceptual model and argue that to change outcomes, there needs to be a change to the work people do, collectively and individually, when seeking urgent care.


Catherine Pope is Professor of Medical Sociology, and Associate Professor of Social Science in Qualitative and Mixed Method Health Research, in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, Oxford.  She uses ethnographic methods and sociological theory to explore the work and organisation of heath care and is an internationally recognised expert in qualitative health research. She co-edited (with Nicholas Mays) the highly successful Qualitative research in health care, currently being revised for a fourth edition.

Twitter @cj_pope