HEALTH officials across County Durham and Darlington are asking people to do their bit by thinking pharmacy, GP and 111 first, and not just to turn up to A&E.
The plea is the first part of a new ‘Do Your Bit’ campaign aimed at raising awareness of the first routes people should take for urgent medical advice and treatment, following the disruption caused by Covid19.
Health chiefs say that due to social distancing and infection precautions, the space available in A&E to care for people and allow NHS staff to work safely has been reduced by 30-50 per cent.
Dr Stewart Findlay, chief officer, NHS County Durham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “We want to make it easier and safer for patients to get the right advice or treatment when they urgently need it.
“We’ve already put in place measures to support and guide the public to make the right healthcare choices and help ensure their safety, as well as making sure they get the right treatment in the right place.
“If a need is not life threatening, we would advise patients’ to contact their local pharmacy, their GP practice or 111 online in the first instance or to call NHS111 if you need to speak to someone out of hours”
Health advice will be provided based on individual issues with solutions ranging from self-care through to an appointment with a GP, or being directed to go to a pharmacist or Urgent Treatment Centre.
People that do turn up to either an A&E department or an Urgent Treatment Centre, will be assessed by a clinician and if suitable, will be re-directed to a more appropriate service for their needs.
“In light of COVID-19, and with winter ahead, it is more important than ever that we don’t have large volumes of people in our surgeries, clinics and hospitals when they could have been cared for elsewhere” added Dr Findlay.
“By thinking of alternative services such as pharmacist, GP and 111 first people can do their bit to help stop the spread of Coronavirus, keep people safe and keep A&E for real emergencies.
In addition, the NHS is also asking people to act responsibly and consider carefully the impact drug use and alcohol has on people behaviours which can increase demands within A&E departments.
Anyone concerned about their mental health is being encouraged to contact a new freephone line making it easier to access urgent help. People in County Durham including children and older people, can contact their local crisis service on freephone number 0800 0516171. Advice on what to do in a mental health emergency is also available at www.tewv.nhs.uk/crisisadvice.
Sue Jacques, chief executive, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (CDDFT), added: “The support for the NHS has been amazing over recent months and as winter approaches we will be asking people to keep this up and do their bit to protect the NHS and each other.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all our health and care staff across County Durham. The last few months have been difficult and their commitment to delivering excellent quality care has never waived.”