MEDICAL staff are urging people in South Tyneside to stay away from accident and emergency departments – unless it is vital.
South Tyneside’s District Hospital’s accident and emergency department has dealt with an extra 600 patients during September, October and November compared to 2013.
Between September and November, 15,395 people visited the South Shields hospital, an increase of 616 visits, compared to the same period last year.
Health chiefs are now urging people to only go to the unit if it’s an emergency and to follow the NHS’ ‘Keep Calm and Look After Yourself This Winter’ campaign to ease the pressure on services.
Steve Williamson, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s chief operating officer, said: “During the winter months, the demand for NHS services increases significantly.
“Cold weather leads to more slips, trips and injuries. Generally, more of us feel unwell as we spend more time indoors and coughs and colds are passed around family, friends and work colleagues.
“We want to encourage people who can self-care, or who are able to visit their local pharmacist for advice on the ailments which are common at this time of year, to do so.”
In November, 5,053 people attended the Harton Lane site, compared 4,831 to last year. October saw 5,252 visits, which was higher than 2013’s 5,004 and in September 5,090 people visited, which was more than the previous year’s 4,944.
The Keep Calm campaign includes adverts on regional TV and buses, social media alerts and printed materials in GP practices, pharmacies and other venues.
There is also a website with information on common winter illnesses, what the symptoms are, how to treat them and how long they will last, as well as advice on what to keep in winter medicines cabinets so people can treat their own illnesses.
Mr Williamson added: “By staying at home and treating themselves with pain killers, rest and plenty of fluids, people are also helping to reduce the spread of viruses to vulnerable patients in NHS waiting rooms and leaving appointments available for those with serious health conditions who need to see a doctor or nurse.”
He added: “We really appreciate the public’s support in helping to relieve the pressure on vital services so that our staff can focus on seriously ill patients and emergencies.
“A&E is for patients whose condition is critical or life-threatening: 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.”