You might have heard the term 'access block' on the news recently. Access block is the single most serious issue facing health systems across the world right now, including Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.

Simply put, access block means that there aren't enough hospital beds to move people out of emergency, causing long delays. Some hospitals have even had to tell people to stay home unless their situation is life-threatening.

The stress on the health system is compounded by a current lack of GPs, especially those who bulk bill or provide free service. This can be scary, especially if you are concerned about your own health or a loved one's health.

Remember that if you need medical support or just someone to talk to, our Sonder support team is available 24/7 to chat whenever you need it.


What is causing access block?

Access block is the situation where patients who have been assessed in the emergency department and require admission to a hospital bed are delayed from leaving the emergency department for more than eight hours due to a lack of inpatient bed capacity.

This leads to overcrowded emergency departments and causes ambulance ramping - which is when ambulances can't unload their patients at hospital, often leaving fewer paramedics to respond to other emergencies.

This is due to a whole host of reasons like:

  • Too many patients in hospitals, with no room to allow for a surge in cases

  • The strain of COVID-19 on an already stretched health system

  • Not enough nurses, doctors and GPs, with many leaving the system recently

  • More patients presenting with more complex needs, especially for mental health

  • People unable to afford to see a GP for non-urgent care, or who can't find a GP with availability

  • Seasonal illnesses or high-demand periods, like Christmas and New Year.

Still, it is important to note that people with urgent medical conditions will still be cared for and emergency services will triage these to the top of the line. Always seek help in emergencies by calling for an ambulance. That's 000 in Australia, 111 in New Zealand and 999 in the UK.

Situations where you should call for an ambulance, include suspected concussions, breathing problems, blood loss, accidents and chest pain. If you can travel, go directly to the closest hospital.

If you aren't sure if an injury or health condition is life-threatening, our Sonder support team is available 24/7 to chat whenever you need it.

If your situation is not life-threatening, make an appointment with a local GP, or get in touch with Sonder via the Sonder app for advice.

What to do if you get sick on holidays

It's always the way - you get away for some rest and relaxation and come down with a bug or injure yourself while out exploring. Here are a few tips you can try to stay safe.

1. Be prepared

Look up late-night pharmacies, medical centres and hospitals near to where you'll be staying and save the details in your phone. That way you can find help fast when you need to. Consider carrying a small first aid kit in your car or luggage, so you can attend to any minor injuries yourself.

2. Stay calm

Don't let stress take over, as it will affect your decision making. Take a few deep breaths and seek assistance, from local medical services, an ambulance, a health advice line or Sonder chat.

3. Keep the emergency department for emergencies

If you need medical assistance but it isn’t an emergency, it’s important to save the emergency room for life-threatening situations, so you aren't adding to the access block problem. If you need to see a doctor face-to-face outside of normal business hours, Google to see if there are any home doctor services near you, phone a health line or access Sonder chat at any time of the day or night.


If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Information sourced from: Australian College for Emergency Medicine, The Age, Channel Nine.

Image credit: Grey's Anatomy.

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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