Original Research

Why seek a second consultation at an emergency centre? A qualitative study

Lize Crafford, Louis S. Jenkins
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 9, No 1 | a1397 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v9i1.1397 | © 2017 Lize Crafford, Louis S. Jenkins | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 December 2016 | Published: 27 July 2017

About the author(s)

Lize Crafford, Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa
Louis S. Jenkins, Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa


Background: The inappropriate use of emergency centres (ECs) is an expanding problem globally. The high attendance of non-urgent return presentations to ECs is recognised as part of the problem, placing an unnecessary demand on limited staff and resources. Of unscheduled returns 34% of cases had no change to diagnosis or treatment with the conclusion that 80% of re-attendance could be attributed to deficiencies in the initial consultation. This study aimed to evaluate the reasons why patients sought an early second consultation for the same complaint at a hospital EC in South Africa, by exploring the patient’s experience and shortcomings in the first consultation.
Method: A qualitative study was conducted using in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 20 purposively selected participants who presented to a rural regional provincial hospital’s EC within 7 days of a prior consultation for the same complaint. Verbatim transcripts were analysed using the framework method.
Results: The main reasons for a second consultation were symptom related factors and the need for diagnostic certainty. The major themes around patient experience of the initial consultation were shortcomings in effective evaluation and management of pain, diagnostic uncertainty including poor examination, poor explanation, uncertain access and follow-up and societal encouragement to utilise a hospital EC.
Conclusion: Further interventions should explore pain as a presenting symptom of the illness experience, and promote competence in addressing physical and psychological causative factors within a patient-centred approach for all health staff, especially in primary care services.


consultation; patient experience; primary health care; emergency centre


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Crossref Citations

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