Health leaders across Tees Valley are asking people to continue to do their bit by thinking pharmacy, GP and 111 online first – and not just turning up to A&E.
The plea is the first part of a new ‘do your bit’ campaign aimed at raising awareness of the first routes people should take for urgent medical advice and treatment, following the disruption caused by COVID-19.
Health chiefs say that due to social distancing and infection precautions, the space available in A&E to care for people and allow NHS staff to work safely has been reduced by 30-50%. Action is needed now to protect patients and staff in the run up to winter.
Adrian Clements, medical director at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We want to support and guide the public to make the right healthcare choices. If their condition is not life threatening, we would advise people to contact their local pharmacy, their GP or 111 online in the first instance.
“Those who do turn up to our A&E department or urgent treatment centres will be assessed clinically and any inappropriate attendances will be re-directed to the right service for their needs.
“In light of COVID-19, and with winter approaching, it is more important than ever that we don’t have large volumes of people in our hospitals when they could have been cared for elsewhere. Please help us keep A&E for real emergencies.”
Deepak Dwarakanath, medical director, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said: “We would absolutely echo what our colleagues at South Tees Hospials NHS Foundation Trust advise. Our communities have worked so hard throughout the ongoing pandemic to ensure that they protected the NHS. We would like to ensure that these efforts continue.
“During the upcoming winter months, we all have a responsibility to look after one another. We can stay safe by continuing to practice good hand hygiene, wearing a face covering where appropriate, ensuring that we follow a healthy diet and have a responsible relationship with alcohol. Small steps can make a big difference in supporting the health and care system this winter.”
In addition, people are being urged to act responsibly and consider the impact drug use and alcohol has on behaviours which can increase demands within A&E departments.
Anyone concerned about their mental health is being encouraged to contact a new freephone line making it easier to access urgent help. People in Teesside including children and older people, can contact their local crisis service on freephone number 0800 0516171. Advice on what to do in a mental health emergency is also available at www.tewv.nhs.uk/crisisadvice.
Dave Gallagher, chief officer, NHS Tees Valley Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “I would like to thank all our health and care staff across the Tees Valley. The last few months have been difficult and their commitment to delivering excellent quality care has never waived.
“We are supporting new ways of working due to the change in the way patients now access services in light of COVID and because of very limited space in our hospital and urgent treatment waiting rooms due to the constraints of social distancing.
“Locally our response to the pandemic has already been for patients to contact their local pharmacy, GP practice or 111 online and if out of hours call 111 if their condition is NOT life threatening and if it is call 999. This way we can ensure A&E and urgent treatment centres are kept free for those who most need them. We are stepping this message up in the run up to winter through the #DoYourBit campaign.”
Sue Jaques, chief executive, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (CDDFT), added: “The support for the NHS has been amazing over recent months and as winter approaches we will be asking people to keep this up and do their bit to protect the NHS and each other.”