People in the North East are being urged to choose health services wisely this winter to ensure emergency services are kept for those most in need.
The call comes as a number of hospitals in the region are seeing an increase in attendances as winter begins to take hold.
People are being reminded that emergency departments and 999 should only be used if a patient is seriously unwell or is in need of critical or life-saving care.
There are a wealth of NHS services people can use to treat less serious injuries and illnesses. For instance, many minor ailments can be treated using over-the-counter medicines and expert advice from a pharmacist with people urged to ‘talk before you walk’. Equally, urgent care / treatment centres offer high-quality care – often with much shorter waits.
If people start to feel unwell, they’re urged not to wait until they get worse, however, ask a pharmacist for expert confidential advice, or visit www.nhs.uk for advice about where to get the right treatment.
Alternatively, to get medical help fast, NHS 111 is available 24/7. It is staffed by highly-trained advisors, supported by healthcare professionals and will assess people’s symptoms and direct them to the most appropriate care.
The advice comes from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust.
Northumbria Healthcare’s Marion Dickson, interim executive director of nursing and midwifery and chief operating officer for surgery, said: “While it may be still relatively mild, we are seeing an increase in attendances in our emergency departments from what was already a high base.
“We’d like to take this opportunity – before the cold weather really does hit us – to urge people who need assistance to pause and think carefully about which service they access to make sure it’s the one that best suits their needs.
“The NHS has robust plans in place but we need a hand from the general public to make a success of them. With that help we can ensure that everyone gets the care they need when they need it – without it we will struggle.
“For coughs, colds and other common winter illnesses, make use of your local pharmacy for confidential, expert advice. Also, GPs now offer appointments outside normal working hours, providing more convenience for patients. If you do have an urgent medical need but aren’t sure whether it’s an emergency, then NHS 111 is available to help 24/7. For little ones, the free NHS child health app is also a very useful resource for parents to access specific advice.”