People across Northumberland and North Tyneside are being urged by health bosses to use NHS services appropriately as the number of people accessing urgent and emergency care services continue to rise.
The trust is highlighting the high number of inappropriate attendances, particularly at new The Northumbria hospital, which continue to put additional pressure on exceptionally busy frontline teams who are there to care for serious and life threatening emergencies and the high number of patients, particularly the frail elderly, who require hospital admission.
People should not attend the new Northumbria hospital for sore throats, small cuts, or for on-going medical problems which are best looked after in primary care via their GP or, simply, by looking after themselves well, practising good self-care, or talking to a pharmacist for advice. For urgent dental problems, such as dental abscesses, people should contact their own dental practice, or if it’s out-of-hours, call NHS 111.
On Monday (14 March) alone, the trust experienced 545 attendances at the new Northumbria hospital and across its urgent care centres in Wansbeck, North Tyneside and Hexham, yet only 125 people (23 per cent) needed emergency admission to hospital. There were 60 attendances from young people aged under 16 and only 19 required emergency admission.
Northumbria is experiencing its busiest winter on record and like the rest of the NHS has seen a soar in attendances in urgent and emergency care. In February, the trust recorded a 30 per cent increase in attendances compared to the same month last year with 13,731 attendances in total. In addition, the number of flu cases have risen since the New Year and has had a significant impact on the NHS, particularly on the number of frail elderly patients needing hospital care.
The trust is calling upon the public to act responsibly when it comes to using NHS services and to help keep The Northumbria hospital free for those who are seriously ill or injured and who clearly require immediate medical help.
Dr Chris Biggin, clinical director of emergency care at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our teams have been working tirelessly throughout the winter to cope with the exceptionally high demand for hospital services and although we’re now into March this high demand continues and is being felt right across the NHS.
“We’d urge the public to help us by using the right service for the severity of their symptoms and acting responsibility when using the NHS.
“Our message is quite simple – please do not attend The Northumbria hospital for any minor ailments which are not serious emergencies as our teams are very busy looking after very poorly people.
“Our urgent care centres are open 24/7 and are the place to go if you have any minor injuries or problems which you either cannot look after yourself by practising good self-care or which cannot wait for a GP appointment.”
Whilst the trust’s urgent care centres have also been extremely busy, waiting times are considerably lower than that at The Northumbria as patients do not need to wait behind serious emergencies. During February over 6,000 used urgent care centres and the majority were seen, treated and left the department in less than one and a half hours.
Dr Biggin added: “It has been an exceptionally busy time for the whole of the NHS not only in the region but across the country and we would apologies sincerely to any patients who have experienced longer waits than usual over recent months. Our staff have been simply amazing in responding to the pressures and we continue to work with all of our partners to make sure patients get the highest quality of care.”
Advice for the public:
ASK YOUR PHARMACIST
• Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare and can offer advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughs, colds and upset stomachs. You don’t need an appointment and many have private consultation areas, so they are a good first port of call. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.
THINK GP FIRST
• If your problem is not urgent and has been present for a while, speak to your GP who will refer you to the right specialist for treatment – please do not attend urgent or emergency care for on-going problems
USE URGENT CARE
• Dial NHS 11 if you urgently need medical help or advice but it’s not a life-threatening situation. NHS 111 will be able to advice on the most appropriate place to access NHS help. This is particularly useful at weekends when GP practices are closed and when we traditionally see the number of inappropriate attendances.
• Urgent care centres are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week at Hexham, North Tyneside and Wansbeck general hospitals and can see and treat walk-in patients for a variety of urgent but non-life threatening conditions. Our staff will be able to see and treat you quickly and you will not be waiting behind more serious emergencies. Minor injury services are also available in Alnwick, Berwick, Blyth and Haltwhistle.
• If you are worried about a child, particularly babies, always call ahead using the NHS 111 service available 24/7.
The Northumbria hospital treats serious emergencies such as:
• Suspected stroke
• Loss of consciousness
• Persistent and severe chest pain
• Sudden shortness of breath
• Severe abdominal pain
• Severe blood loss
Most patients arrive by blue light ambulance or via emergency GP admission. If you have a serious life threatening emergency, call 999 for an emergency ambulance. In a 999 emergency, ambulance paramedics will take you to the most appropriate hospital.