The NHS across the region is seeing an increase in the number of people attending A&E departments, many of whom could have sought advice from a service more appropriate for their needs.
With A&E departments designed to treat the most serious and life threatening conditions – everyone is being asked to #DoYourBit and think about alternative services such as pharmacy, GP and 111 online or telephone first, and not just to turn up to A&E.
The appeal comes as lockdown measures are eased further this week and with another bank holiday approaching.
While the number of COVID-19 cases across the region remains low, NHS teams – across hospital and GP practices – still face challenges such as reduced space in hospital treatment areas and surgeries and the need to follow strict infection control measures to ensure patients and staff continue to be safe.
The region’s health service is therefore asking the public to keep up their amazing support for the NHS and #DoYourBit by remembering:
- To think pharmacy, GP and 111 online or telephone first. Only attend A&E or call 999 if you have serious or life-threatening emergencies.
- If you suspect you have COVID-19 stay at home and get a test by calling 119 or visiting www.nhs.uk. You cannot access testing through A&E or GP surgeries.
- If you are visiting any of our healthcare settings, please remember to wear a face covering, use our handwashing and alcohol gel facilities.
- Please attend appointments on your own, where possible, to limit the number of people on site and reduce the risk of infection to other patients and NHS staff.
- Please keep your hospital, clinic or GP appointment. If you can’t make it, do let us know so we can offer that appointment to others.
The majority of hospitals across the North East are seeing more than 250 to 300 people in one day alone. Some of the non-urgent conditions people attend with, which could have been dealt with by other services, include uncomplicated back and abdominal pains, headaches, mild allergies and earache and on some occasions a test for covid-19.
Dr Bas Sen, regional clinical advisor for the North East and a consultant in emergency medicine at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle said: “We are always here if people need us but sometimes people do come to our emergency department when they could have been cared for more appropriately elsewhere. So we would urge people to think pharmacy, GP and 111 online or telephone first and only attend A&E or call 999 if you have serious or life-threatening emergencies.
“Those that do turn up to our A&E department will of course be assessed clinically by a member of our team but will be re-directed to a more appropriate service for their needs if they don’t need emergency care.
“By thinking of alternative services people will be doing their bit to keep A&E for those that really need it.
“Please remember that NHS 111 online or telephone can make direct appointments at surgeries, pharmacies and urgent treatment centres. They can also send an ambulance for serious or life-threatening issues.”
Northumberland GP and chair of the North East Faculty of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), Dr Lily Lamb, said: “The NHS is here for you if you need us however please use services sensibly and choose the most appropriate service to best suit your needs.
“During the pandemic we have changed our systems to ensure everyone’s safety. Most GP practices continue to offer initial assessment via phone, e-consult or video consult, but we will be able to see you face-to-face if that is needed.
“We’re urging people to plan ahead as they would normally do by ordering repeat prescriptions in advance and ensuring a well-stocked medicine cupboard.
“If you have a minor ailment, pharmacies are open throughout the weekend and can offer advice and over-the-counter medicines for most common ailments. NHS 111 online is a very helpful resource. Please use it to help with any decisions about whether you need a clinical assessment for your condition.”
Dr Mike Bramble, interim clinical lead for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System, said: “With lockdown measures easing even further this week we are all looking forward to enjoying time with friends and family. But we hope everyone will behave in a way that does not impact on their health, our emergency services and the wider NHS by continuing to follow the rules on social distancing and staying safe and using services sensibly.”