Hospital doctors urge public to think carefully and Choose Well before coming to A&E this winter

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Hospital doctors urge public to think carefully and Choose Well before coming to A&E this winter
09 December 2014

DOCTORS working in busy A&E departments run by The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust are encouraging people to think carefully before coming to A&E and to consider using the NHS resources and other healthcare provision and advice available in their local community unless they are very seriously ill.

By choosing the right service, patients will get the best treatment in the shortest possible time, whilst keeping emergency health services available for emergencies and life-threatening conditions

Services available in the community include GP practices, local pharmacies, dentists, health visitors, community nurses and midwives. Making full use of these services means that A&E doctors are then free to treat the sickest of patients, such as those seriously injured in an accident.

A large range of common illnesses and injuries can be treated at home simply with over-the-counter medicines and plenty of rest.

There are lots of resources, including symptom checkers, available to help the public decide what service is the best one to treat them. These include the Choose Well website, NHS Choices website at www.nhs.uk , and the NHS 111 telephone advice service, which is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls to the service are free from landlines and mobile phones.

Pharmacists can also offer advice and over the counter remedies for many common winter illnesses and local people are being reminded to stock up their cupboards with medicines ready for the winter and holiday period. Patients who require repeat prescriptions are also asked to think ahead and get hold of the required amount before local GPs close for Christmas. Traditionally the winter months see an increase in coughs, colds and flu symptoms.

Along with other Acute Trusts nationally the Pennine Acute Trust is seeing extremely high numbers of patients presenting at its A&E departments, many of whom are requiring hospital admission and need medical care and treatment. Over the last few weeks the Trust has experienced significant pressures and demand within Paediatrics (this includes children’s A&E and children’s inpatient wards), particularly at The Royal Oldham Hospital and North Manchester General Hospital where the Trust has seen a 20% increase in the number of paediatric patients. Other Trusts are reporting similar levels of sick children.

Dr Jimmy Stuart, clinical director and consultant in Emergency Medicine at The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust (pictured), said: 

“Nationally A&E departments are seeing a significant rise in the number of patients they see each winter and we are no different. I would encourage people with minor illnesses such as colds and flu to use the NHS services available in the community and to get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids and take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. As colds and flu are caused by viruses, antibiotics will not help get rid of them. These are fairly self-limiting illnesses and those affected may feel unwell for a few days.

“A&E departments are for those people who are extremely unwell and need urgent medical attention. In a genuine emergency, the A&E department will provide the best possible care to patients.”

Professor Andrew Rowland, consultant in Paediatric Emergency Medicine at North Manchester General Hospital, added:

“This winter we are encouraging patients to consider if attending an Emergency Department is really necessary and the best option available to them, or whether they may be better seeking advice and help from one of the community healthcare services instead. Whilst patients who have genuine emergencies should make sure they seek urgent help, if patients present with more minor conditions they could have managed with support from the excellent services available in the community, we use up valuable resources that could be better used to treat critically ill babies, children and adults.”

Patients are urged to consider the full range of NHS services available to them. Advice about self-care and details of local health services are available via the NHS Choices website or by calling the NHS 111 service. By choosing and using the right services, patients can expect to be seen or treated more quickly, whilst keeping emergency services free for those patients who need them most.

Information about common illnesses as well as a series of short videos about them are available on the Choose Well website at www.choosewellmanchester.org.uk in the resources section.

Pictured: Dr Jimmy Stuart, Clinical director and consultant in Emergency Medicine, The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust