Following the severe weather, people across the North East are being urged to stay away from A&E unless they are seriously unwell or in need of critical or life-saving care. Members of the public are being reminded to think before dialling 999 and only call if they have a life threatening emergency.
The plea – from all NHS providers in the region – comes as attendances at A&E have soared since the snow has melted with extremely high numbers of very sick patients requiring treatment.
As teams prioritise patients with most immediate needs, people attending with minor illnesses and injuries have been facing a long wait. This influx in patients has meant NHS services are very busy with pressures in many areas. In some cases this has also meant that there has meant some delays in paramedics handing over sick patients as A & E departments cope with increased numbers of walk in patients.
NHS providers are reminding people who are not seriously ill to seek alternatives wherever possible. Advice and signposting to community services is available for free through NHS 111.
Andy Beeby medical director at QE Gateshead said: “Like many NHS hospitals up and down the country, we are continuing to face pressures on our services over the winter period and we are working hard to manage the demands we are currently facing.
Our A&E department is currently very busy and we would urge people to think carefully about the best place for their care if it isn’t a genuine emergency. We ask people to please use emergency services responsibly and think about alternatives to hospital for more minor issues, utilising the NHS 111 service and accessing healthcare advice from local GPs and pharmacists.
If you care for children, the child health app is free to download and offers a wealth of advice and support.
On behalf of the region’s NHS providers, Dr Jeremy Rushmer, executive medical director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Since the temperature started to rise and the snow has melted, across the region our emergency departments have been inundated with patients.
“When the weather improves following a spell of severe conditions, in the NHS we do expect the number of attendances to rise however given that the weather was so extreme, this pattern this week has been even more marked.
“This intense pressure is being felt right across the region and we are appealing to the public for their help. Please only come to A&E if you are seriously unwell or in need of critical or life-saving treatment to enable our teams to concentrate on caring for those who need our help most.
“There is plenty of help readily available for those who are not in immediate need. Your local pharmacist has a wealth of knowledge and NHS 111 is always a good port of call for urgent medical advice and they will direct you to the most appropriate place for your condition.
“It’s also worth remembering that waiting times are considerably shorter at urgent care and walk-in centres with patients being seen much sooner for non-life threatening conditions than if they went to an emergency department.”