DOCTORS from The Royal Oldham Hospital are encouraging people to think carefully before attending A&E and to consider which health service to use this winter as the number of people attending A&E is increasing significantly due to the cold weather.
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.
Along with other hospitals nationally, The Royal Oldham Hospital is seeing extremely high numbers of patients presenting at its A&E department, many of whom are requiring hospital admission and need medical care and treatment.
The Royal Oldham Hospital’s A&E department is available to treat the sickest of patients, such as those who are seriously ill, have life-threatening conditions or are injured in an accident.
On Thursday 14 December there were 279 attendances at the A&E dept at The Royal Oldham Hospital. A&E doctors are seeing an increase in patients with heart attacks, broken limbs, ice related injuries, stroke and vulnerable elderly patients with flu.
People with colds, minor ailments and less serious non-emergency conditions should use the services available in the community including local pharmacies. A large range of common illnesses and injuries can be treated at home simply with over-the-counter medicines and plenty of rest.
Doctors are urging the public to be careful in the icy conditions and when out at Christmas parties and to take a sensible approach when eating and drinking and on nights out with friends.
To give the public and idea of the types of pressure A&E doctors face, NHS England recently warned that heart attacks increase almost immediately after a cold snap and that accounts for two in five winter excess deaths and admissions. Hospitals also see a rise in the admission of stroke patients five days after the cold weather begins and peak respiratory admissions go up 12 days after the temperature drops.
For every one degree the temperature drops below 5 degrees, there is a 10% rise in elderly people presenting with breathing problems and almost a 1% increase in emergency admissions. Therefore if the temperature drops 5 degrees there will be a 4-5% increase in people being admitted to A&E.
The number of hospital admissions is also linked to viral infections like flu. Older people who may be frail, or who have existing health conditions, are particularly at risk
Dr Tom Leckie, A&E Consultant at The Royal Oldham Hospital said:
“My advice to the general public would be if they have a cold or flu symptoms to stay warm at home and to take paracetamol, or other remedies available over the counter from their local pharmacist, to ease their symptoms. After a few days rest they should start to feel better without the need for urgent medical attention. Our staff are working really hard to treat and care for those who need emergency care. We will always have to prioritise. We would welcome the support of the public to help keep our Emergency Departments free for those with urgent care needs and those with life threatening conditions. Those who attend A&E with minor conditions and a cough or cold will likely have to wait longer and could be seen quicker by accessing an alternative healthcare service such as their local pharmacy or GP.”
Donna McLaughlin, Chief Officer of the Oldham Care Organisation at The Royal Oldham said:
“We welcome people to come to A&E if they are extremely unwell and need urgent medical attention, and in a genuine emergency we will provide the best possible care as quickly as possible to those patients. However, we want the public to think carefully and choose the right service for their condition, which may well be in the community at their GP surgery or local pharmacy.
“There are lots of resources and information available to the public, including online symptom checkers, to help choose what service is the best one for you or your family. These include the Choose Well website, NHS Choices website, 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.
“Local 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.”
Pictured: Dr Tom Leckie, A&E Consultant at The Royal Oldham Hospital