Health chiefs are asking patients to help them beat an increasing NHS winter workload.
Hospital services in the North East are experiencing additional pressure as the cold weather sets in and are issuing a plea for people to use services wisely.
Aan increasing number of people are affected by coughs, colds and sore throats, as well as more serious breathing problems and, with a wide range of illnesses affecting more people in the winter months, the NHS is focused on helping patients to get access to the right services to meet their needs.
More GP practices than ever before are now open for appointments later in the evening and at weekends and there is a range of medicines and quick advice available from local pharmacies to help with coughs, colds, sore throats, upset stomachs, aches and pains and other common symptoms.
Dr Jonathan Slade, NHS England’s deputy medical director for the North East, and a practicing GP, said: “Emergency departments across the region are starting to get extremely busy and we’re asking people to really think about how best to seek advice and help.
“Everyone knows where their local emergency department is and when it is open - and understandably people often default to that - but there are many other services, including GP surgeries, which are now open longer hours providing treatment for a wide range of non-emergency health needs.
“NHS 111 can also provide advice, and signpost people to the most appropriate service to address their needs, and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“When emergency departments are busy, the patients with the most pressing and life-threatening needs will always be seen as a priority.
“Parents concerned about their child’s health can download the NHS child health app, created by doctors, which provides up-to-the-minute advice about how best to treat common childhood illnesses. Using the correct advice from the app can give parents the confidence to know they are taking the right course of action to help their child.”
Dr James McFetrich, consultant in emergency medicine at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, Cramlington, said: “Please look at the NHS Choices website for information about where to go to get the right treatment.
“You can also phone 111 for advice or speak to your GP or local pharmacist.”
*To know which NHS service is best for your needs – Check the NHS Choices page at www.nhs.uk/pages/home.aspx.