A&E departments across North East and North Cumbria are under 'intense pressure' - partly due to parents worried about strep A
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The North of England Commissioning Support Unit (NECSU) is urging patients not to attend accident and emergency unless their condition is serious or life-threatening.
Instead for less serious ailments people are being advised to visit their local pharmacy or call 111 for advice and action.
A&E departments are seeing additional pressure by parents concerned about possible strep A in their children.
The NECSU stated: "Across North East and North Cumbria all emergency departments are under intense pressure.
“If your condition is not life threatening we are encouraging people to think about alternatives such as pharmacy and 111 online first – https://111.nhs.uk/, and only attend A&E or call 999 if they have serious or life-threatening emergencies.
"If people are unsure where to go for medical advice we ask that they visit NHS 111 online - https://111.nhs.uk/ in the first instance.
"NHS 111 can help people make direct appointments at surgeries, pharmacies and urgent treatment centres and they can send an ambulance for serious or life-threatening issues.
"As many services are also under additional pressure due to parents being concerned about their children and possible strep A.”
The NHS says most strep A infections are mild and easily treated. More information can be found on the NHS website including what symptoms to look for, when to seek medical help and what to do in an emergency. Visit http://nhs.uk/strep-a
Local authorities across the region are also working to help address the system pressures including by supporting hospitals with safe discharges.
The plea comes just days after new data from NHS England showed that, in A&E departments across the country, just 68.9% of patients in England were seen within four hours last month, down from 69.3% in October and the worst performance on record.
The target is for at least 95% of patients attending A&E to be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, but this has not been met nationally since 2015.
Danielle Jefferies, from the King’s Fund, said: “The latest figures show an NHS bursting at the seams as services head into winter struggling to meet sharply rising demand while keeping patients safe.”
The figures do show some improvements to NHS performance in several areas, with the number of people waiting more than 12 hours in A&E departments from a decision to admit to actually being admitted showing a fall.
Some 37,837 people waited longer than 12 hours in November, down 14% from the record 43,792 in October, but it is still the second-highest monthly total in data going back to August 2010.
The number waiting at least four hours from the decision to admit to admission also dropped from a record 150,922 in October to 143,949 in November.
National clinical director for urgent and emergency care, Professor Julian Redhead, said: “Despite the ongoing pressures on services which are exacerbated by flu hospitalisations, issues in social care meaning we cannot discharge patients who are ready, and record numbers needing A&E, staff have powered through to bring down some of our longest waits for care.”