Published on: 28 December 2022

The region's NHS has issued an urgent plea for people to only use A&E or 999 if their condition is life threatening and to think of alternative services such as local pharmacies, GPs, NHS111 online.

The NHS is also urging anyone eligible, who has not yet come forward for their free flu or COVID-19 vaccinations, to get protected now following a rise in the number of people requiring hospital care with the influenza virus.

The plea comes as services continue to face high demand over the festive break. 

Dr Neil O'Brien, executive medical director for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board, said:

"We would like to thank our communities for all their help so far this winter and ask that you continue to lend your support to us at this challenging time. Your actions really do make a difference and by choosing the right service for your needs it helps us to prioritise care for those people who are most poorly.

"Please only use 999 and accident and emergency departments for life threatening injuries and illnesses.

"Patients who attend accident and emergency departments with non-emergency conditions are likely to face a long wait for treatment. If you need medical help but it's not an emergency, please think about other services such as your local pharmacy, GP or NHS 111 online.

"If you’ve not come forward for your COVID-19 booster or flu vaccination yet, and you are eligible, please do so now – there is still time! Vaccines really are the best protection against these viruses which are circulating within our communities.

"By getting vaccinated you not only protect yourself but those closest to you from becoming seriously ill and possibly requiring hospital care."

If you need advice for an everyday illness or injury, please either contact your local pharmacy for help or look at the self-care advice that’s available online from the NHS at

You can also check your symptoms, using the online symptom checker available at, which will re-direct you to a health professional if you need to be seen by someone. If your symptoms persist and you are not getting better, please contact your GP practice for advice.

You may be eligible for both Covid-19 and flu vaccinations if you are:

  • aged 50 years and over
  • in a clinical risk group
  • pregnant
  • aged 5 to 49 and a household contact of someone in a high clinical risk
  • a carer aged 16 to 49
  • a resident, or staff member in a care home for older adults
  • a frontline health or social care worker

In addition, the free flu vaccine is offered to children aged 2 to 3 years.

Anyone eligible for a COVID-19 Autumn booster can make an appointment via:

  • The National Booking Service,
  • Ringing 119
  • By attending a walk-in clinic, advertised on local ICB and council websites
  • Finding a walk-in clinic via the national grab a jab website Grab A Jab.

Eligible adults can book for a free FLU vaccination at:

Parents of 2 to 3-year-olds can make an appointment for their child to have their FLU nasal spray at their local GP surgery
Mums-to-be can also get a FLU vaccination at their GP practice or local maternity service