Health chiefs urge patients to stay away from A&E as hospitals are under 'severe pressure' due to flu and vomiting and diarrhoea

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Health bosses are urging the public not to clog up the region’s accident and emergency departments and 999 services as the North East braces itself for cold weather.

Patients have been warned they should be prepared for long waits if they attend with minor illnesses or ailments as staff focus on those with the most urgent needs.

People are being reminded emergency departments and 999 should only be used if someone is in immediate need of critical or life-saving care.

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Anyone who starts to feel unwell is urged to ask a pharmacist for expert confidential advice or visit for advice about treatment.

Patients are being urged not to overwhelm A+E and 999 services this winterPatients are being urged not to overwhelm A+E and 999 services this winter
Patients are being urged not to overwhelm A+E and 999 services this winter

GPs can deal with a range of conditions with out-of-hours appointments available, while urgent care/treatment centres offer high-quality care for a broad range of problems; often with much shorter waits.

People with an urgent health need that cannot wait, but unsure whether to go to A+E should visit or by call 111 (available 24/7).

NHS leaders are also urging anyone at risk from flu to take up the offer of a free vaccination as soon as possible by contacting their GP. This includes over-65s, those with certain medical conditions, and pregnant women.

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A joint statement on behalf of all NHS providers in the region said: “It is important to remember your local emergency department should be reserved for people in immediate need of critical or lifesaving care. There are a range of high quality alternatives to choose from. If you are unsure which is right for you, you can contact NHS 111 online or by telephone.

“Simple steps, like washing your hands regularly and getting the flu vaccine are the best protection against seasonal illnesses; many of which can cause severe illness and even death.

“For everyone else, although flu and vomiting and diarrhoea are nasty, they will get better without the need to attend hospital. Both are highly infectious and we are urging people with symptoms to stay away from hospital to ease the pressure on our teams and stop the virus spreading.”

To ensure patients who really need emergency care receive the quickest possible treatment, members of the public should only dial 999 or attend emergency care for serious emergencies.