ALMOST a fifth of patients seen at South Tyneside District Hospital’s casualty unit don’t really need to be there, new figures reveal.
During the last financial year 63,437 people turned up at the South Shields hospital’s accident-and-emergency department seeking treatment.
Of those, 12,133 required no medical treatment, apart, in some cases, for advice or leaflets.
Those statistics have prompted Helen Ray, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s chief operating officer, to urge patients to consider other options before heading to the Harton Lane hospital.
She said: “Patients with minor injuries and illnesses can help us to efficiently manage the very sick people who really need to be seen in hospital by not automatically turning up at accident-and-emergency.
“Their local pharmacist can give advice on coughs, colds and flu-like symptoms.
“Those with injuries that are over 48 hours old, or who have had low-level pain for a few days, should see their GP first, and minor injury units and walk-in centres can treat many minor ailments.”
Despite the high number of people attending and not needing help, the figure is down on the previous financial year.
Between March 2011 and April 2012, 62,148 people attended A&E overall, with 13,215 of them being sent home without treatment.
Ms Ray said: “It is good to see that the number of South Tyneside District Hospital A&E patients requiring no investigations or significant treatment decreased last year.
“Hopefully, this demonstrates that more patients are choosing the right service and not automatically going to A&E, which is there to assess and treat patients with serious injuries or illnesses.
“We very much appreciate the public’s support in helping to relieve the pressure on A&E by considering a more appropriate service if their condition is not critical or life-threatening, so that our staff, who do a fantastic job each and every day, can focus on seriously-ill patients and emergencies.”