People who need urgent NHS care across West Lancashire and Sefton are being asked to contact NHS 111 before going to a hospital accident and emergency department.
NHS 111 will direct people to the most appropriate health service which may include a walk-in centre, GP practice, pharmacy or hospital.
If patients are assessed as needing to attend a hospital, they will get a timed appointment at a hospital emergency department.
In a medical emergency, people should always call 999.
Medical Director Dr Terry Hankin said: “We are asking our community to contact NHS 111 first if they need medical help, so they can be treated in the right place, right time, first time.
“If patients need hospital care then NHS 111’s booked time slots will help ensure that they are safely socially-distanced in our emergency departments.”
Dr Dave Snow, Associate Medical Director for Urgent Care, said: “NHS 111 will help to reduce waiting times for patients, ease pressures on staff and help us to safely manage this extremely busy period. We are still here for emergency care but if it is not an emergency then please contact NHS 111 first.
“This is one of many changes we have made this winter to help us operate safely during the ongoing pandemic. We have temporarily increased the size of our emergency department to allow separation of Covid and non-Covid patients, which is helping us to keep everyone as safe as possible.”
Nationally around 70 per cent of people attending emergency departments had just walked in when many could have been seen through other services such as an urgent treatment centres, GP practice or a pharmacy.
Emergency departments treat patients in order of clinical priority. Patients who walk in without contacting NHS111 will still be seen, but those with appointments from NHS111 will be given priority, unless other patients have a greater clinical need. This means that contacting NHS111 is the quickest way to get the care you need.
In an emergency, if you think someone has a life-threatening condition, please still call 999
Likewise, if the condition is not serious, still seek advice from the pharmacy or make an appointment with a GP.