As we head into the New Year celebrations, the NHS across the
North East is continuing to ask members of the public to use NHS
services wisely as emergency departments and the ambulance service
report unprecedented demand across the region on their
Patients not requiring emergency treatment should expect very
long waits in emergency departments as frontline teams and
ambulance paramedics prioritise serious emergencies and those in
greatest clinical need.
People who do not need emergency care are being urged to think
about alternatives to hospital or ambulance - including using NHS
111 which is available 24/7 for urgent medical advice either by
calling or going online at www.111.nhs.uk.
Dr Stewart Findlay, Co-Chair of the North East and
North Cumbria's Urgent and Emergency Care Network, said:
"Members of the public who attend an Emergency Department with any
minor illnesses should be prepared for long waits as NHS staff will
rightly focus on treating those with the most urgent medical needs
The plea follows a major public awareness campaign launched
before Christmas urging people to 'think before they act.'
The NHS continues to appeal to the public conscience to ask people
to really consider how they are using local NHS services so the NHS
can focus on treating those most in need.
And as the region prepares for its busiest night of the year,
the NHS is also appealing for people to drink sensibly during their
New Year celebrations, wrap up warm in the cold weather conditions
and have plans and enough money for your journey home.
The North East has some of the highest alcohol-related hospital
admissions in the whole country and NHS bosses are urging people to
act responsibility to avoid putting extra strain on busy frontline
Dr Jennifer Rhodes, Consultant in Emergency Medicine and
Paediatric Emergency Medicine at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital
Gateshead, said: "For those of us working in A&E and other
wards, excessive alcohol use over the festive period creates extra
demands on top of the intense pressures we already have during the
"We already have a lot of sick patients in the emergency
department who require our attention and treatment, but then we
have to factor in the time taken in dealing with people who have
been drinking heavily. Some of these patients may become
aggressive and abusive, or through alcohol lack the capacity to
make decisions about themselves. That has huge implications on our
time, on available resources and for the security of staff. It also
impacts on other patients - some of whom are vulnerable - and it
and it can mean it takes us longer to see and treat them."
Dr Findlay said: "We really want people to think about
how they are using our precious NHS resources. This is a busy
time of year for us and staff across all parts of the NHS are
working incredibly hard so it's important that we all take
responsibility for our actions.
"There is no question that the NHS will always be here for you
when you need us most, but we also need your help to act
responsibly. Our teams of doctors, nurses and paramedics are
under immense pressure and it's vital that we can free up their
time to treat those who have the greatest need."
Helen Ray, chief executive of North East Ambulance Service,
added: "More than 40% of people who call 999 for an emergency
ambulance don't need to be taken to hospital and there is a common
misconception that arriving to hospital by ambulance will mean you
get seen quicker. The NHS will always treat people based on the
urgency of their clinical need, not how they arrived at
Winter always means additional pressure across all parts of the
health service due to common seasonal illnesses circulating in the
community. Hospitals also see an increase in emergency
admissions from those who are more vulnerable and at risk of
becoming seriously unwell during the cold winter months. This
includes people with breathing or heart problems, older people and
those suffering from other long-term health conditions.
Dr Findlay added: "Our NHS provides a fantastic service but
we need people to respect it and use it properly. We know
there are still hundreds of instances of people accessing hospital
emergency services for relatively minor problems which can be
easily treated by other parts of the NHS."
Many GP surgeries offer extended opening hours and additional
appointments. Find out which local pharmacies and GP practices are
open over the Christmas and New Year. http://www.urgentoremergency.co.uk/gp-opening-times
Pharmacists can also provide expert, confidential advice and
treatment for many common ailments and winter illnesses.
A spokesperson is available to comment from the following NHS
Foundation Trusts via the communications teams:
Northumbria Healthcare: Call Yvonne Storey on 0191 203 1655
Newcastle Hospitals: Call Amanda Marksby on 0191 213 7175
Gateshead Hospital: Call Ross Wigham on 0191 445 6120
Sunderland & South Tyneside Hospitals: Call Liz Davies on
Durham & Darlington Hospitals: Call Gillian Curry on 01325
North Tees & Hartlepool Hospitals: Ruth Dalton on
07786516705 / 01642 624331
South Tees Hospitals: Call Mark Graham on 07484 335860
North East Ambulance: Call duty press officer on 07559 918
'I would like to thank all the staff for my treatment and their
Patient, Cardiology Department, Bishop Auckland Hospital