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Emergency Department (ED) journey

Date issued: June 2021

Review date: June 2023

Ref: D-346

PDF:  ED Emergency Department journey final June 2021.pdf [pdf] 669KB

Welcome to our Emergency Department

The Emergency Department is sometimes known as ‘Accident and Emergency’, or A&E.  We treat people who have suffered a recent injury or accident, or who have developed a sudden illness.

Our Emergency Department in Plymouth sees over 100,000 people every year.  That’s the same as filling up Home Park stadium six times over!  We see all people in our department, but we are also a specialist hospital for severe injuries, strokes, heart attacks and neurosurgery.

How long will I wait?

We aim to care for you and treat your condition as soon as we can, but the length of your wait will depend on the number of people in the department as a whole, and the severity of those people’s injuries or illnesses.  We are working hard to see you as quickly as possible.  If your condition worsens while you are waiting please let a member of staff know. Sometimes people may be called before you, despite arriving after you.  This may be because they have a more urgent medical need, or can be seen by a different member of staff.  Even if the waiting room appears quiet the other areas of the department can be very busy.

Whilst you are waiting

  1. Pain: If you are in pain, please inform a member of staff.

  2. Eating and Drinking: If you are thirsty or hungry, please check with a member of staff that it is safe for you to eat and drink.  You can use a vending machine, or ask a member of your family to visit Warren’s bakery or Marks & Spencer’s both located on Level 6.  If you are on your own or have no means of buying food, please ask a member of staff as sandwiches can be obtained for you.  Regrettably, we cannot provide food for your relatives/caregiver.  If you have specific dietary requirements, please speak to a member of staff and we will do our best to accommodate your needs.

  3. Toilets: The toilets are located off the main entrance foyer of the department, next to reception.

  4. Social Distancing: To keep everybody safe, we aim to keep the numbers of people in the department to a reasonable minimum. Patients who need a carer present can be authorised by the nurse in charge, but otherwise no visitors will be allowed. Unless you have an exemption, please wear a face mask at all times.

  5. Medication/ Prescription: Please try to obtain a copy of your repeat prescription or a list of your regular medications and this will aid the doctor or nurse in their assessment.  Inform your doctor or nurse of any drug allergies you may have.

  6. Smoking: The hospital site is a non-smoking site.  We would therefore ask you to refrain from smoking on site.

  7. Self- Discharge: If you are going to leave the department for any reason, it is important that you inform a member of staff.

  8. Mobile Phones: You may use your mobile phone in hospital to contact your relatives, caregivers and loved ones.  If you do not have your own mobile, we have a mobile telephone you are welcome to use.  Of course, if you are unable to contact loved ones, we can make a call for you, please just let us know.  We cannot give out information about your health or your condition, without first seeking your consent.

  9. Spare Clothes & Overnight Bag: Please bring in a set of clothes as you may be suitable to move to another area / department to wait for results, this cannot be achieved for a patient wearing pyjamas/slippers.

  10. Personal property and valuables: We ask you to look after your personal property at all times, as staff are unable to do this for you.  University Hospitals Plymouth cannot accept responsibility for lost items.  If you need to store valuables, please ask a member of staff and we will lock them in the department safe.  It is preferable that family members take home your most valuable items.  Please remember to keep glasses, hearing aids and dentures, where possible, as this will aid communication and make your assessment and time in ED/hospital more pleasant.

Frustrated with waiting?

We know that waiting can sometimes feel frustrating, and if you are worried about your length of wait you can let us know.  Our staff work very hard to see everybody as quickly as possible.  Please be kind to our staff.  Violence and aggression is not only very unpleasant for our staff, but it is frightening for other patients. Violence and aggression will not be tolerated and may lead to criminal prosecution and exclusion from the hospital in the future. 

Where else can you get treatment?

There is an Urgent Treatment Centre at the Cumberland Centre, Plymouth, and Minor Injuries Units in Kingsbridge and Tavistock. If you are not sure where to go for help, you can use NHS 111.


We ask all patients who attend the ED and are discharged home to provide us with feedback via the Friends & Family Test.  This gives you, the patient, or your relatives/carers the opportunity to voice your concerns/ praise of your experience of the ED.  Please ask for a paper form or visit our website.

More information is available on our website.

  • Initial assessment

  • Streaming

  • Pain relief

  • Visitors

  • Clinical investigations/tests

  • Admission/ Discharge

  • Follow-up

  • Self-discharge





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