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New Year plea from region’s NHS to use services wisely

Issued on behalf of the NHS in the North East and North Cumbria

At the start of 2020, the North East and North Cumbria's NHS is reiterating its plea to the public to use services wisely amid extremely high numbers of people accessing emergency healthcare services.

Following a busy festive period for emergency teams, the first week of the New Year has seen demand soar with hospitals across the region and the ambulance service now under severe pressure.

While many people have been seriously ill and required an emergency ambulance and emergency admission to hospital, thousands of others have attended hospital Emergency Departments for minor problems when other, more appropriate services are available and should be used.

Examples from across the region include sort throats, cold sores, upset tummies and other common winter ailments which can effectively be managed by gaining advice from a pharmacy and over-the-counter medicines or, if required, a visit or phonecall with their GP.

In December 2019 alone, there were over 100,000 attendances across the region's Emergency Departments and, despite the significant pressure that frontline teams are under, 81.7% of patients were still seen and treated within four hours or arrival.  This is above the national average for England which was 79.8%.

The public are again being urged to use NHS 111 which is available 24/7 for urgent medical advice before attending any frontline services.  This can be done by either going online at 111.nhs.uk or calling 111.  

If people ignore this advice and attend an emergency department with minor illnesses, they should be prepared for long waits as NHS staff will rightly focus on treating those with the most urgent medical needs first. 

Dr Stewart Findlay, Co-Chair of the North East and North Cumbria's Urgent and Emergency Care Network, said: "While our NHS services were busy over Christmas and New Year, since the turn of the year, we have seen demand soar in our hospitals and our ambulance service and the system is currently under extreme pressure.

 "If people are in immediate need of critical or lifesaving care, then ringing 999 for an ambulance or going straight to a hospital emergency department is absolutely the right thing to do but, if you're not, please seek alternatives.

"NHS 111 online or by telephone is available 24/7 for urgent medical advice but it's worth remembering that most common ailments at this time of year can be effectively managed at home with advice from a local pharmacy.

"I'd like to take this opportunity to thank our NHS staff across the region who have been working tirelessly throughout the festive period to provide high quality care to those in need, no matter how busy they are.  Can we also thank our patients for their patience if they are experiencing long waits for care, this is much appreciated, thank you.

 "In 2020, please do what you can to enable them to focus their efforts on those who need their help most."

 Ends

Published 9th January 2020

'In recent times, I have utilised admissions to Richardson for respite direct from my fracture clinic, even at weekends. I have never worked anywhere with this efficiency before - it is reassuring and invaluable for the patient.'

Patient, Lowson / Starling Wards, Richardson Hospital