‘Keep A&E for medical emergencies’

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Health bosses are urging South Holland residents to make sure they choose the most appropriate care for their ailments this winter.

Despite a relatively mild winter so far, local NHS services are facing increased demand, particularly from elderly and vulnerable patients, and the weather is forecast to get significantly colder towards the end of the week.

Lincolnshire East CCG chief nurse Tracy Pilcher said: “Even without severe weather, the arrival of winter invariably means the NHS as a whole faces considerable challenges in dealing with greater numbers of patients.

“Whilst we plan for increased demand, we need help from people which they can give by using the most appropriate way to treat their ailments.”

Colder weather and viruses lead to an increase in the number of people being admitted to hospital as an emergency, particularly those with a respiratory condition.

Lincolnshire East CCG has produced a list of tips to help people plan and ensure they receive the most appropriate and timely treatment during winter:

• Ensure you have sufficient over-the-counter medicines to treat minor ailments, such as coughs, colds, cuts and scratches.

• If you feel unwell, particularly if you are elderly, seeking early advice from your GP or pharmacist could prevent a minor ailment becoming more serious.

• If you have an ongoing medical condition requiring repeat prescriptions, ensure you have sufficient supplies to avoid running out when your GP surgery is closed.

• Your local pharmacist is a good source of information, advice and treatment for a wide range of minor ailments.

• For urgent medical needs that are not emergencies, NHS 111 is a free national phone number able to provide advice at any time on where and how to receive the most appropriate treatment.

• This year’s NHS flu campaign is encouraging all those who are eligible for the free flu vaccination to take up the offer.It is targeted at those with long-term health conditions, pregnant women and parents of children aged two to four.

• Keep a look-out for elderly or vulnerable neighbours to ensure they are safe and well.

• If you have symptoms of vomiting or diarrhoea, stay away from hospitals including visiting friends or relatives.Norovirus, often called the winter vomiting bug, is highly contagious and can spread quickly in hospitals

• Don’t go to a hospital A&E department or dial 999 for an ambulance unless it is for a serious or life-threatening emergency.

Tracy added: “Clearly there are times when attending A&E or dialling 999 is the right thing to do. However, using these services for less serious conditions does not mean a patient will receive quicker treatment, and may result in a delay for someone else whose condition is serious or even life threatening.

“Taking a few easy and sensible precautions now, along with using the best way to receive treatment if needed, can help ensure the NHS continues to provide high quality, appropriate care for everyone needing it this winter.”

The range of alternative services to A&E includes:

Pharmacy

Your local pharmacist can provide confidential, expert advice and treatment for a range of common illnesses and complaints, without you having to go to your GP or other healthcare setting.

NHS 111

This is a service which makes it easier for you to access NHS services. It is available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year and is free when you telephone 111. You can call 111 when you need medical help fast but it is not a 999 emergency.

GP Out of Hours service

If you need a doctor out of normal hours, dial NHS 111 to contact the GP Out of Hours service.

Minor injury units

Johnson Community Hospital, Spalding Road, Pinchbeck, PE11 3DT. Tel: 01775 652000, open seven days: 8am-6pm.