A historic rise in accidents, the inevitable over-indulgence in chocolate and alcohol and the lingering effects of the cold weather on the elderly and people with long-term conditions all make for a busy Easter at A&E.
Extra consultants have been drafted in to the accident and emergency department at The James Cook University Hospital this weekend, to cope with the expected surge in patients.
However, those who are unlucky enough to suffer a minor illness or injury are being reminded A&E doesn’t mean Absolutely Everything, as, even with the extra staff on hand, you are still likely to receive quicker treatment via NHS 111, at local walk-in centres or Redcar Primary Care Hospital’s Minor Injuries Unit.
“Of course, we hope everyone across Teesside and North Yorkshire will enjoy a safe and happy Easter holiday,” said Julie Suckling, directorate manager of A&E.
“However, experience tells us that, unfortunately, during the school holidays and with more people going on days out or doing leisure or DIY activities at home, there tends to be an increase in accidents, which results in a surge in A&E attendances.
“This combined with the fact many older people or those with long-term medical conditions are still suffering the effects of the colder weather, mean that the Easter Bank Holiday weekend is always a busy time for A&E departments.
“We will have extra consultants on shift this weekend to cope with the expected rise in demand for our service, but members of the public can also help by choosing the right service for their healthcare needs.”
Julie added long term problems that are already being managed by a GP are inappropriate for A&E, unless the sufferer suddenly becomes seriously ill.
Many people mistakenly believe they can bypass the process of being referred to hospital by a GP for an ongoing complaint if they simply turn up at A&E instead – but this is not the case.
“Minor complaints that reoccur should be dealt with by a GP and you should only attend for assessment if you have an acute [sudden and serious] complaint, that requires emergency care,” Julie said.
GP walk-in centres like The Resolution in North Ormesby and Eston Grange NHS Health Centre – or Redcar Primary Care Hospital’s Minor Injuries Unit – can provide quicker access to care for any minor injuries and illnesses that require treatment this weekend.
Julie said: “The Minor Injuries Unit is open 24/7 and it will also be possible to have X-rays there between 9am and 1pm on Good Friday and Easter Monday and during the X-ray department’s normal opening times of between 8am and 8pm on Saturday and Sunday.”
Calling NHS 111 is another alternative to A&E, providing healthcare advice over the phone or referral to an out of hours GP service such as South Tees Access Response (STAR), which has GPs operating across Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland.
NHS 111 will also arrange for you to go to hospital by ambulance if needed, making this a good option if you’re unsure whether your ailment requires simple self-care at home, a visit to a GP or needs to be checked out in hospital.
Our A&E team regularly see patients coming in with coughs and colds, headaches, period pain stomach problems caused by over-indulgence – and even sickness and diarrhoea – all of which are most comfortably treated at home, with advice and over the counter remedies from a pharmacist if needed.
Another recent example involved a patient coming in with “earwax”.
“If you come in with this type of illness over the Bank Holiday weekend – as with most other times – you are likely to face a long wait to be seen, as we must prioritise those with the most pressing clinical need,” said Julie.
“The James Cook University Hospital is a Major Trauma Centre for the whole region, dealing with major accidents and serious illnesses involving patients across Teesside, North Yorkshire and South Durham.
“Patients who walk into A&E with less serious conditions will be unaware of staff dealing with such major trauma behind the scenes and when sitting in the A&E waiting room, it can often look like nothing is happening, which can be frustrating and sometimes, even leads patients to become abusive towards our staff.
“It’s worth remembering that at these times, it’s likely these staff have been dealing with serious, life threatening injuries or illnesses.”