Public urged to think twice before using A&E following surge in demand

Date: 04 Jan 2017

Category: Campaign

Health leaders are urging people to use A&E for serious and life-threatening emergencies only, following a post-Christmas surge in numbers seeking emergency care across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

The local NHS has been placed on system-wide escalation status (known as 'OPEL 4') due to high levels of demand for local health services including in particular emergency services at Southmead Hospital, Bristol Royal Infirmary, Bristol Royal Hospital for Children and Weston General Hospital.

System escalation status means that there is severe pressure on services across the health and social care system requiring decisive action by all parts of the system to maintain safe, clinical services.

Local health and care partners have implemented agreed plans to manage demand and restore capacity across the system. Measures include deploying extra staff to emergency departments, opening extra beds where possible, rescheduling non-urgent routine hospital appointments and operations and increasing community and primary healthcare capacity.

Residents are also being encouraged to help manage pressures by choosing the most appropriate services for their needs and using A&E for serious and life-threatening emergencies only.

"Like many parts of the country, we are experiencing particularly high levels of demand for urgent and emergency care following the Christmas and New Year holiday. We have robust plans in place to manage this demand and on the whole we are coping well but A&E departments in particular are under considerable pressure and we expect this to continue throughout the week. Members of the public can help us manage this demand by using the most appropriate service for their needs and most importantly, only using A&E for genuine life-threatening emergencies. There is some evidence that a significant number of people are continuing to use A&E for minor or non-emergency conditions but it’s important to remember that if you’re feeling under the weather or have a minor injury, A&E is not necessarily the answer. In these cases I urge people to seek advice from their pharmacist first, contact their GP or call 111 for advice.”"

- Dr Peter Goyder, Clinical commissioning group Clinical Lead for Urgent Care and local GP

Alternatives to A&E

A wide range of NHS services are available offering fast, local treatment and advice for minor injuries and illnesses. They include pharmacies, out-of-hours GP services, minor injuries units and walk-in centres and the NHS 111 advice line.

Help and advice on getting the right care, first time is available by calling the NHS 111 service or by visiting our Health Services section.

The websites include comprehensive information about local services as well as self-care advice for patients and carers/parents. Further advice for parents caring for poorly children is available by downloading the free paediatric HANDi App.

Free NHS ‘service finder’ smartphone app for Bristol, offering on-the-go advice and guidance on finding a local NHS service, are also available to download from the Android and Apple app stores.

  • Local pharmacists can advise on minor ailments and self-care for very minor conditions.
  • Minor injuries units are available in Bristol, Clevedon and Yate for fast, local treatment of minor injuries such as strains, sprains and broken bones, without needing a trip to A&E. They’re available seven days a week. Dial 111 for details.
  • Patients in South Gloucestershire can also access a minor injury service from their local GP practice during normal practice hours.
  • Bristol has a walk-in centre at 59 Broadmead and an urgent care centre at South Bristol Community Hospital, offering the same services as minor injuries units as well as help with minor illnesses and emergency contraception and advice.
  • The NHS 111 service provides 24/7 advice for people who need urgent - but not emergency - medical help or advice. It’s free to call from a mobile or landline.
  • A&E and 999 are for serious, life-threatening conditions such as loss of consciousness, heavy blood loss, severe chest pain, head injuries or a suspected stroke or heart attack. In these circumstances, don’t hesitate – call 999 for immediate assistance.