Public urged to use health services sensibly as restrictions ease

Residents are being urged to do their bit and protect frontline NHS teams as restrictions continue to ease.

By David Sedgwick
Wednesday, 19th May 2021, 1:51 pm
Health leaders are urging people to only attend A&E if necessary.
Health leaders are urging people to only attend A&E if necessary.

The NHS is seeing an increase in the number of people attending A&E departments, although officials say many could have sought advice from a service more appropriate for their needs.

Members of the public are being asked to #DoYourBit and think about alternative services such as pharmacy, GP and 111 online or telephone first, and not just to turn up to A&E.

The appeal comes as lockdown measures are eased further this week and with another bank holiday approaching.

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While the number of Covid-19 cases across the region remains low, NHS teams in hospitals and GP practices still face challenges such as reduced space and the need to follow strict infection control measures.

The majority of hospitals across the North East are seeing more than 250 to 300 people a day.

But some of the non-urgent conditions people attend with – including uncomplicated back and abdominal pains, headaches, mild allergies, earache and a Covid-19 test – could have been dealt with elsewhere.

Dr Jo Hughes, a consultant and head of emergency medicine for the Trust, said: “We are always here if people need us, but sometimes people do come to our emergency department when they could have been cared for more appropriately elsewhere.

"So we would urge people to think pharmacy, GP and 111 online or telephone first and only attend A&E or call 999 if you have serious or life-threatening emergencies.

“Those that do turn up to our A&E department will of course be assessed clinically by a member of our team, but will be redirected to a more appropriate service for their needs if they don’t need emergency care.

“By thinking of alternative services, people will be doing their bit to keep A&E for those that really need it.

“Please remember that NHS 111 online or telephone can make direct appointments at surgeries, pharmacies and urgent treatment centres. They can also send an ambulance for serious or life-threatening issues.”

Northumberland GP Dr Lily Lamb, chair of the North East Faculty of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), said: “The NHS is here for you if you need us, however, please use services sensibly and choose the most appropriate service to best suit your needs.

“During the pandemic, we have changed our systems to ensure everyone’s safety.

"Most GP practices continue to offer initial assessment via phone, e-consult or video consult, but we will be able to see you face-to-face if that is needed.

“If you have a minor ailment, pharmacies are open throughout the weekend and can offer advice and over-the-counter medicines for most common ailments.

"NHS 111 online is a very helpful resource.”

Dr Mike Bramble, interim clinical lead for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System, said: “With lockdown measures easing even further this week, we are all looking forward to enjoying time with friends and family.

"But we hope everyone will behave in a way that does not impact on their health, our emergency services and the wider NHS by continuing to follow the rules on social distancing and staying safe and using services sensibly.”