If it’s not life-threatening, don’t use A&E or call 999. That’s the message from the NHS as the region’s services gear up for a busy New Year weekend.
With services under even more pressure than usual, patients in the North East and North Cumbria should only call 999 or visit A&E if their condition is a threat to life or limb.
Exceptionally high demand has been fuelled by high levels of respiratory problems and rising Covid rates, with doctors warning of long waits as they focus their attention on the most urgent cases.
Dr Neil O’Brien, Medical Director for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB), said: “A&E and ambulance services are under huge pressure, with more people than ever needing our help. Staff are working so hard, and your decisions as a patient really make a difference.
“If it’s not an emergency, please think about other services first, like your local pharmacy, GP or NHS 111 online.
“For life-threatening emergencies like chest pains, breathing difficulties or severe loss of blood, we would always say to come forward for the emergency help you need. Equally, we know that many people find this a very stressful time of year, and would encourage you to contact mental health services if you are struggling. Please see North East and North Cumbria’s website for further information.
“But anyone who comes to A&E with something less urgent will have a long wait, and is likely to be referred to a more suitable service for their needs.
“We have had some very challenging days already this winter, but patients have helped by thinking carefully about choosing the right service.”
North East Ambulance Service has already declared critical incidents on two occasions this month, with unprecedented pressure impacting its ability to respond to emergency patients.
Chief operating officer Stephen Segasby said: “If you’re out celebrating, have a good time but don’t ruin your fun by ending up in the back of an ambulance.
“We expect to be under pressure over the weekend and patients may face longer waits for an ambulance – if you’re waiting for an ambulance, please only call back if the patient’s condition worsens or if it is no longer required.
“Our amazing staff and volunteers work extremely hard, and this unparalleled pressure is showing no sign of respite. Please think before you pick up the phone – do you really need an ambulance or is there another way of getting help?”
Examples of medical emergencies include chest pain, breathing difficulties, unconsciousness, severe loss of blood, severe burns, choking, fitting and severe allergic reactions.
If you need advice for an everyday illness or injury, contact your local pharmacy or look at the self-care advice at www.nhs.uk. You can also check your symptoms at www.111.nhs.uk, which will re-direct you to a health professional if you need treatment.
Parents and families can also find valuable information from the Healthier Together website or app.