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This paper examines some of the misapprehensions that have often underpinned the planning of accident and emergency services in the UK. Accident and emergency (A&E) is not a homogenous group of activities and the different components that make up the service should be planned separately. This planning needs to be accompanied by some significant redesign to meet growing patient expectations. In particular, there is a major challenge for services to offer local access in an environment in which acute care is increasingly centralized.