Patients urged to avoid the bank holiday rush to A&E

With Christmas and New Year holidays fast approaching, and significant pressures already being felt by local hospitals and GP surgeries, doctors are reminding people to choose wisely if they become unwell over the bank holiday.

Winter 2016 - feeling under the weatherThe advice - from the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Airedale NHS Foundation Trust - reminds people suffering from coughs, flu, stomach bugs, indigestion and other minor ailments to self-care, leaving doctors and nurses free to look after patients with more serious or life-threatening illness.

The unpleasant symptoms produced by many minor illnesses can be eased with over-the-counter remedies available from a community pharmacy, who can also provide advice on a range of minor ailments including bugs and viruses, tummy troubles and much more. Your local pharmacy should be the first point of contact if you need advice about minor illnesses. 

Dr James Thomas, clinical chair of NHS Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “The NHS is open seven days a week, 365 days a year for those who need emergency help, but A&E always experiences a surge in winter and particularly in the days around bank holidays when attendance at A&E with minor problems tend to increase – so we’re asking people to only attend if it’s absolutely necessary.

“Having winter remedies such as over the counter painkillers and simple cough syrups in stock is always a good idea. Using a pharmacist as a first point of contact when you’re unwell is often the best thing to do.”

Dr Jeremy Till, consultant in emergency medicine for Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Winter is a busy time for our emergency department and you can help us to make sure that patients who really do need our service are dealt with quickly.

“Emergency departments are for accident and emergency cases only such as severe chest pain, difficulty breathing, severe bleeding, serious head injuries and broken bones. If you feel you need urgent medical advice or treatment, but don’t have a life-threatening problem or have had a serious accident, consider seeing your pharmacy or GP first, or call NHS 111. Please think carefully about which NHS service you need in order to avoid an unnecessary trip to A&E.”

“Patients who come to the emergency departments in Bradford and Airedale unnecessarily will be re-directed to more appropriate services, freeing up time for doctors and nurses to see emergency cases.”

In addition to face-to-face GP appointments, patients registered at many practices can now book a telephone consultation with their GP. Ask your practice for more details.

For patients wanting to find information online, the NHS Choices website is available 24/7 and offers up to date and expert advice on a range of illnesses, as well details of local health services. For patients wanting advice and signposting, the NHS 111 (dial 111) service is a free helpline, available 24/7 for patients needing medical help fast when it is not a life-threatening situation. 

Hospital managers have also issued a plea to visitors to help in the fight against common winter bugs and norovirus. Anyone who has had any symptoms of diarrhoea and/or vomiting should not visit patients in hospital until at least 48 hours after the symptoms have cleared. Also relatives who have coughs, colds or flu-like symptoms need to stay away from hospital as there is a significant risk that they will pass these on to vulnerable, sick patients.

The NHS Stay Well This Winter campaign offers straightforward advice to people aged 65 or over, those with long-term health conditions, pregnant women and parents of children aged two, three and four in school years 1 and 2 on how to prepare for the cold weather and stay well this winter.

There are many different ways that people can help themselves to get the right treatment and allow busy NHS services to help the people who need them most.

The options are:

  • self-care: look after yourself at home with a well-stocked medicine cabinet
  • pharmacist (chemist): for expert advice on common illnesses and the best medicines to treat them
  • GP (doctor): for illnesses that just won’t go away, arrange to see your doctor
  • call 111: if you need urgent healthcare, contact NHS 111 which will help you access the local service that can help you best
  • NHS Choices: www.nhs.uk is the UK’s biggest health website, containing a range of information to help you look after yourself and your family
  • A&E or 999: only if you need very urgent medical attention.