Published on: 28 November 2019

NHS organisations across the North East and North Cumbria are appealing to people with flu-like symptoms or vomiting and diarrhoea to stay away from hospital.

Emergency departments and 999 services across the North East and North Cumbria are already extremely busy with the colder weather, which is affecting people with long-term health conditions, children and the over 65s in particular.

People are being reminded that emergency departments and 999 should only be used if someone is in immediate need of critical or life-saving care. In all other cases alternatives should be used.

Members of the public should be prepared for long waits in emergency departments if they attend with any minor illnesses or ailments as NHS staff will focus on treating those with the most urgent medical needs first.

There are a wealth of NHS services people can use to treat less serious injuries and illnesses:

If you start to feel unwell, do not to wait until you get worse but instead to ask a pharmacist for expert confidential advice or visit for advice about where to get the right treatment.

Many ailments can be treated using over-the-counter medicines and expert advice from a pharmacist. You are 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 you have an urgent health need that cannot wait, but are not sure if you should go to the emergency department, call NHS 111 (available 24/7).

NHS leaders are also urging people who are at risk from flu to take up their offer of a free vaccination as soon as possible by contacting their GP practice. This includes people aged 65 and over, and those with certain medical conditions and pregnant women.  

A joint statement on behalf of all NHS providers in the region, said:

“It is important to remember that emergency departments should be reserved for people in immediate need of critical or lifesaving care. There are a range of high quality alternatives to choose from. If you are unsure which is right for you, you can call the NHS 111 service to speak to a trained call handler will be able to help.

“Simple steps, like washing your hands regularly and getting the flu vaccine are the best protection we have against the seasonal illnesses; many of which can cause severe illness and even death for those who are most vulnerable. 

“For everyone else, although flu and vomiting and diarrhoea are nasty, they will get better without the need to attend hospital. Both are highly infectious and as such, we are urging people with symptoms to stay away from hospital to help ease the pressure on our busy teams and stop the virus spreading.”

Meanwhile to help ensure that patients who really need emergency care receive the quickest possible treatment, members of the public should only dial 999 or attend emergency departments for serious medical emergencies.

Medical emergencies requiring emergency department care include:

  • Chest pain;
  • Breathing difficulties;
  • Unconsciousness;
  • Severe loss of blood;
  • Severe burns;
  • Choking;
  • Fitting;
  • Severe allergic reactions