HEALTH bosses are calling on all but genuine emergencies to stay away from a South Tyneside hospital after staff were swamped over the Christmas period.
There was a four per cent increase in people reporting to the accident and emergency department at South Tyneside District Hospital in South Shields, between December 1 and last Sunday, and some non-emergency operations had to be cancelled.
In total, 4,750 people attended the site, in Harton Lane, for treatment compared to 4,562 in 2013.
Staff say many patients were presenting with “genuine and complex” ailments which required them to be admitted – adding further pressure on staff and resources during the poor weather.
In the run-up to Christmas, health chiefs ran a campaign urging people not to add to the emergency workload by reporting to A&E with ailments which could be treated by GPs, at home or with a visit to a pharmacist.
Steve Williamson, South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s chief operating officer, said: “This heavy demand on emergency services is not unique to South Tyneside District Hospital, but is being experienced at various hospitals in the North East and in the rest of the country.
“Not only are our A&E attendances up this month, but we are also dealing with high numbers of complex, severe cases, including older people with respiratory illnesses who require admission.
“However, we have managed to maintain the vast majority of services although, unfortunately, we have had to cancel some non-urgent operations.”
Bosses are still urging people to make sure they only visit A&E if it is an emergency, and instead turn to their medicine cabinets or pharmacists
Mr Williamson added: “Our hard-working staff continue daily to provide care of the very highest standard and we are very proud of them for their dedication.
“We would appeal to the public to support them in their task by choosing the right NHS service. 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.
“We would also encourage patients with ailments such as coughs and colds, which are common at this time of year, to self-care and ask their local pharmacist for advice.
“By staying at home and treating themselves with painkillers, rest and plenty of fluids, they 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.
“We very much appreciate the public’s help in dealing with this current situation.”
n Voice of South Tyneside ... Page 6