PEOPLE in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay are being urged to do their bit to relieve pressure at busy hospitals by making use of NHS 111 and local urgent treatment centres and minor injury units this half-term.
Emergency Departments (EDs) at all the county’s hospitals are currently seeing very high demand, and many have ambulances outside waiting to handover patients.
Other parts of the NHS healthcare system have capacity to look after people with less severe needs to allow Emergency Departments (EDs, also known as A and E) to focus on those who need help the most.
Staff at NHS111 can direct people to Minor Injuries Units and Urgent Treatment Centres. This will ensure that people get to the right place for treatment quickly and may reduce their waiting times.
Parents can get advice on common childhood illnesses on the HANDi paediatric app and are being urged to download the app to access quick and convenient advice.
Many minor conditions and symptoms can be managed at home without seeking further advice. Visit the NHS website: www.nhs.uk for a complete guide to conditions, symptoms and treatments, including what to do and when to get help.
Dr Nigel Acheson, Chief Medical Officer, said: “Our hospitals have been seeing extremely high numbers of people attending this week and this is putting pressure on our emergency departments.
“With half-term coming this week, we know that families may be out doing more outdoor activities and enjoying everything Devon has to offer. But if you get sick or injured, there are other services available to help locally, saving our busy EDs for the most serious cases.
“Help us to help you. If you need urgent medical advice when your GP practice is closed, visit: 111.nhs.uk or call 111.
"The 111 service can refer into Emergency Departments or direct to Urgent Treatment Centres/Minor Injury Units if needed.”
Some hospitals in the county are also experiencing challenges due to norovirus and other viruses.
Local people are being reminded not to visit friends and relatives in hospital if they have norovirus (an illness that causes vomiting and diarrhoea) or Covid-19 symptoms. For more details on how to treat norovirus, which usually goes away after two to three days, see the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/norovirus/ .
Many minor conditions and symptoms can be managed at home without seeking further advice. Visit the NHS website www.nhs.uk for a complete guide to conditions, symptoms and treatments, including what to do and when to get help.
Dr Matt Thomas, Executive Medical Director the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We’re urging local communities to use our services responsibly this February half term, and choose the right care for them.
“We want to be there for everyone that needs us in a medical emergency, to ensure this, we need to have crews available for patients with the most life-threatening conditions. Please only call 999 if someone is seriously injured or ill, for anything else, please contact NHS 111 or visit your local pharmacy where appropriate.
“I would like to thank our people and NHS colleagues who continue to work hard to help keep us all safe and well. Should you need their support, please be kind to them, they are working under huge daily pressures.”
You can find information about local Urgent Treatment Centres and Minor Injury Units on the websites of local NHS trusts in Devon:
Mental health support
People are also being reminded that anyone experiencing a mental health crisis no longer needs to visit an Emergency Department for advice. Local mental health services provide a 24/7 First Response Service for anyone experiencing a crisis.
• Devon and Torbay – call 0808 196 8708
• Plymouth (18 years and over) – call 0800 923 9323
• Plymouth (under 18s) - call 01752 435122.
Pharmacists are qualified experts in treating minor illnesses such as coughs, colds, stomach upsets and aches and pains. They are also able to assess and treat patients, without the need for a GP appointment, for seven common conditions:
• Sore throat
• Infected insect bite
• Uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women (under the age of 65).
Find your nearest open pharmacy: https://www.england.nhs.uk/south/info-professional/pharm-info/pharmacy-opening-hours/ .