NHS patients in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire are being urged to get the ‘Right Care, First Time’ as part of a new information campaign.
The campaign aims to tackle the high numbers of people attending A&E with minor injuries or illnesses which could be treated more quickly and easily via an alternative provider such as a GP or minor injuries unit.
Almost 230,000 people in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire attended the area’s main A&E units during 2015/16, including the Bristol Royal Infirmary, Southmead Hospital and Weston General Hospital. Of these, one in four (nearly 58,000) were not admitted and received guidance or advice only that could have been delivered via an alternative service.
The campaign emphasises the benefits to patients of using the most appropriate NHS service for their needs, such as shorter waiting times and quicker access to treatment, as well as benefits to the local NHS such as reduced pressure on A&E at times of high demand.
Speaking on behalf of the area’s three clinical commissioning groups, urgent care clinical lead and local GP Dr Ann Sephton said: “As we approach one of the busiest times of the year for local health services, our message to patients is that when they are injured or unwell they can help themselves and help their local NHS too by getting the right care, first time.
“Using the best service for your needs can save you time and effort, as well as making sure you get the best possible treatment for yourself and your family as soon as possible.
“Better still, by using services carefully you’ll be helping the NHS make the best use of its resources while reducing pressure on the busiest parts of the local health system.”
Owen Ainsley, chief operating officer at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Winter is a challenging time for everyone in the healthcare service and we are working with our colleagues across the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire area to make sure patients are well cared for during this time of year.
“We are encouraging people to use the most appropriate service for their needs. There are several options available, such as local minor injury units or urgent care centres.
“It is important for people to know that A&E departments provide treatment for serious, life-threatening conditions and the most seriously ill patients will be seen before those with less urgent conditions.”
Helen Richardson, Director of Nursing at Weston Area Health NHS Trust, said: “We’re entering the colder months which always places additional demand on A&E departments.
“We know that older people and those with long-term conditions can become ill and spend longer in hospital if they do not seek support or early advice from the most appropriate NHS service, such as a pharmacist or GP.
“Our advice to people is to help themselves and their local hospital by considering alternatives to using A&E.
“By using the correct service you may save yourself time and access quicker treatment while also helping your local hospital to reduce pressure on A&E during the busiest period of the year.”
Lead Emergency Department Consultant at Southmead Hospital, Leilah Dare, said: “We understand that sometimes people are unsure of where they should go for health advice, but your local pharmacist or GP are often a good first port of call for long-term conditions or less urgent complaints. You may even find that your pharmacist can help you in a matter of minutes rather than waiting several hours to be seen in the Emergency Department.
“We are here to help people who are seriously ill or have life-threatening injuries, your local pharmacist can help with common problems such as coughs and colds while your GP can deal with ongoing health complaints, which means we can focus on giving seriously ill patients the best possible treatment.”
A&E attendances among patients in the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire area rose by 6.2% between 2013/14-2014/15 and a further 2.7% between 2014/15-2015/16. Children aged 0-10 accounted for almost one-third of attendees receiving only advice or guidance at major A&E units in 2015/16 (28%, or 16,443 attendances) and young adults aged 20-34 years accounted for 26% (14,747 attendances).
The campaign urges people to take simple measures to get the right care, first time including speaking to their pharmacist for advice on very minor ailments such as coughs and colds that can be treated at home, and, for parents, using resources such as the free smartphone NHS HANDi App to help them care for common minor childhood illnesses.
The campaign also encourages people to use NHS 111 when they need help urgently but it isn’t an emergency. As well as providing immediate medical advice, 111 can advise patients on the most suitable urgent care service for their needs, including local minor injuries units, walk-in centres and the GP out of hours service.
People are also reminded that A&E and 999 should only be used for serious and life-threatening emergencies.