Hospital bosses in South Tyneside are asking people not to go to the main hospital’s accident and emergency department unless they have a serious medical condition.
Since April 1 last year, an average of 168 people have attended the A&E department at South Tyneside District Hospital, in South Shields, every day.
We are seeing a lot of patients in A&E with serious conditions such as chest infections, severe infections causing sepsis, and heart disease and stroke.Medical director Dr Shaz Wahid
But already this year figures are far above the average. On Saturday, 236 people attended A&E at the hospital in Harton Lane, and 213 went along the following day.
On Monday, 206 people attended and 191 showed up on Tuesday.
Medical director Dr Shaz Wahid, said: “We are seeing a lot of patients in A&E with serious conditions such as chest infections, severe infections causing sepsis, and heart disease and stroke.
“We usually find the incidence of such conditions increases one to two weeks after a cold spell, such as the one we had recently.”
Hospital bosses are encouraging people with less serious conditions to see their GP and ease the strain on A&E doctors.
Chief operating officer Michelle Arrowsmith said: “Since the start of the new year, we have experienced sustained demand on our A&E services at South Tyneside District Hospital, including from a significant minority whose problems could be better dealt with by a pharmacist or a GP.
“The key message we need to convey is that A&E departments like ours are for patients whose condition is urgent or life-threatening.
“The public can help our staff to do their job by choosing the right NHS service and not automatically turning up at A&E. This will help us to efficiently manage the very sick people who really need to be seen in hospital.”
Mrs Arrowsmith added: “We would like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to our partners, including neighbouring Trusts, NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and South Tyneside Council for their support and to our staff, clinical and non-clinical, who, as usual, are responding magnificently to the challenges we are facing.”
In the event of ailments such as coughs and colds, upset stomachs and general aches and pains, patients are advised to Think Pharmacy First.
The campaign, developed by NHS South Tyneside CCG in close association with Gateshead and South Tyneside Local Pharmaceutical Committee, encourages people to get advice and medicines to treat common or less serious illnesses from a community pharmacy.
By asking their local pharmacist for advice and staying at home and treating themselves with painkillers, rest and plenty of fluids, they will also help to reduce the spread of viruses to vulnerable patients in NHS waiting rooms and will leave appointments available for those with serious health conditions who need to see a doctor or nurse this winter.
Those with injuries that are over 48 hours old, or who have had low level pain for a few days, should see their GP.