With Christmas just around the corner, health chiefs in Southport, Formby and West Lancashire are urging local patients to consider how they use 999 and A&E over the festive period for them and their children.
As many prepare to tuck into turkey, celebrate with friends and family or enjoy a festive night out, the health commissioners are reminding residents to think before dialling 999 or visiting accident and emergency departments over the bank holiday.
The message is part of the Examine your Options campaign, which aims to give people information so that they know where to go to in the first instance, to get fast, expert advice when they need it and how to help themselves and their families if they have a common illness or ailment – and help ease the pressure on A&E and 999 services at the same time.
It also reinforces the message that A&E and 999 services are for serious illnesses and life-threatening injuries only.
Dr Jack Kinsey, local GP and board member of NHS West Lancashire CCG, said: “With the increasing pressure on emergency services over the busy Christmas and New Year period, we are stressing the importance of ensuring A&E and the 999 number are kept free for genuine medical emergencies.”
Dr Rob Caudwell, local GP and NHS Southport and Formby CCG chair said: “It is vital to remember that the ambulance service and A&E should not be used as an alternative to your GP if your surgery is closed. If you or your children require medical assistance outside of normal surgery hours this bank holiday, patients in Southport, Formby and West Lancashire have access to a wide range of alternative health services available including GP out-of-hours services and pharmacists who are qualified to offer advice and treat common, everyday illnesses quickly and conveniently.”
Simon Featherstone, Director of Nursing and Quality, at Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust, said: “Coughs, colds, sore throats, upset stomachs, general aches and pains, and flu will usually clear up on their own. Keep warm, drink plenty of fluids and, if appropriate, treat with over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol. You should contact a GP or the GP out of hours service for help with injuries or illnesses that won’t go away.
“A&E is for people facing life-threatening conditions and emergencies such as serious accidents, serious burns, breathing problems, heart attacks and strokes.
“You don’t need an appointment at A&E but we’ll make an assessment on arrival and, depending on how urgent treatment is needed, you may have to wait up to four hours. The triage nurse or clinician may also signpost you to a different health care provider such as your GP, dentist or pharmacy.
“That’s why you might be better examining your options first and choosing another NHS service – or treating yourself.”
Alternative NHS services available:
NHS 111 – When you or your family need medical help or advice fast, but it is not a 999 emergency, you can also call the NHS 111 service. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and calls are free from mobiles and landlines.
GP out-of-hours service – For times when you need an urgent appointment with a GP when your GP surgery is closed, GP out-of-hours services are available; just call 111 and you can speak to a local GP over the phone or face to face if necessary.
Pharmacies – Pharmacists are qualified to offer advice on health issues and medication as well as treat coughs, colds and other common illnesses without an appointment. For those that wish to speak to a pharmacist in private, many have a consultation rooms away from customers to discuss health queries.