About emergency departments

Emergency departments (EDs) treat people who have a serious illness or injury that requires urgent attention. There are close to 1 million ED attendances in New Zealand every year.

Patients may be referred to an ED by their doctor/GP, the ambulance service or they may refer themselves. If you are uncertain how serious your illness or injury is, you can call your GP, local ED or Healthline (0800 611 116) for advice.

On arrival at an ED patients are seen by a triage nurse (or doctor) who assess the illness or injury, decide how urgent it is and how soon treatment is required. Patients are then seen in order of the seriousness of their condition. That is, patients are not seen in order of arrival. This process allows for the sickest and most urgent patients to be seen first. For more information see the Emergency department triage page.

Those patients with more minor injury or illness may have to wait for longer to be treated. Therefore, for non-urgent problems, some people may find it more convenient to see their own local GP, after hours duty doctor or clinic or phone Healthline (0800 611 116).

Once assessed and treated by ED staff, patients may be admitted to the hospital, transferred to another hospital or discharged.

If discharged home, before leaving the ED patients should check that they are happy with the following:

  • Know what is wrong with them.
  • That they will be able to manage at home.
  • Have their prescription (if needed) and know where to go to pick up their medicine.
  • Know how to care for their illness / injury at home.
  • Have transport home.
  • Know what follow up care they will need (e.g. an outpatient appointment or a visit to their GP or family doctor).
  • That their pain is under control.
  • That they have a copy of their discharge summary form and (if appropriate) their ACC form.

If a patient’s condition worsens or does not progress satisfactorily once they go home, they should contact their GP or return to the ED.

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