Published on: 3 October 2019
NHS organisations across the North East and North Cumbria have come together to issue a stark warning to the public as hospitals and emergency ambulance services are already seeing the impact of the change in seasons and first serious cases of flu.
The warning comes from staff working within emergency departments (ED) across the region who are seeing a significant increase in attendances on top of already record levels. On 1 October alone for example, more than 4,500 people attended the region’s emergency departments often for conditions that should be seen elsewhere or (increasingly) for illnesses like flu which can be managed or avoided through vaccination and self-care.
People are being reminded that EDs and 999 should only be used if a patient is in immediate need of critical or life-saving care. In all other cases alternatives should be used.
There are a wealth of NHS services people can use to treat less serious injuries and illnesses. For instance, many ailments can be treated using over-the-counter medicines and expert advice from a pharmacist with people urged to ‘talk before you walk’. GPs can deal with a range of conditions with out-of-hours appointments available. Equally, urgent care / treatment centres offer high-quality care for a broad range of problems; often with much shorter waits.
If people start to feel unwell, they’re urged not to wait until they get worse but instead to ask a pharmacist for expert confidential advice, visit www.nhs.uk for advice about where to get the right treatment or call NHS 111.
NHS leaders are also urging those people who are at risk from flu to take up their offer of a free vaccination as soon as possible or risk putting other people – including NHS staff – at risk. Those eligible for a free NHS flu jab, including people aged 65 and over, those with certain medical conditions and pregnant women, should contact their GP practice to arrange their vaccination.
The advice comes from every NHS organisation in the region – from provider trusts and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to regional teams of national organisations.
Dr Stewart Findlay, chief officer for the five CCGs across Durham and Tees Valley, said: “We need to be honest with people about the consequences that their decisions lead to. For instance, not getting your flu jab will almost certainly mean more pressure on our nurses and doctors – even if you never get ‘sick’ you can still carry it and infect others. Equally, attending ED when you don’t need it inevitably means a longer wait for someone else; with potentially dire results.
“To continue to cope the NHS needs a hand from the general public - with that help we can ensure that everyone gets the care they need when they need it.”