Health experts at NHS North East are urging the public to only visit A&E or call 999 if they have a life threatening or critical condition.
All hospitals in the region and the ambulance service are currently especially busy, and those using these services with minor conditions can add to this pressure and take up valuable time needed to treat critical cases.
The NHS is encouraging the public to consider other options when they are ill and it’s not an emergency such as taking care of themselves at home, phoning NHS Direct or visiting a local pharmacist for advice if they’re unsure about their symptoms, or making an appointment with their GP.
Dr Tricia Cresswell, deputy medical director at NHS North East, said: “All A&E departments and the ambulance service across the north east are very busy at the moment.
“To allow these services to focus on seriously ill patients and emergencies, we would urge anyone whose condition is not critical or life threatening to consider a more appropriate service rather than visiting A&E or dialling 999.
“Diarrhoea and vomiting, colds and flu are all unpleasant. However, in the majority of cases these illnesses can be treated at home with rest, plenty of fluids and some over the counter medication from your pharmacist.
“If you feel that your symptoms are getting worse and they don’t clear up after a few days, call NHS Direct or telephone your local GP surgery for advice.”
“If you are suffering from diarrhoea, vomiting or flu please don’t visit friends or relatives in hospital until you have been free from symptoms for 48 hours, or you risk passing on the illness to those who are already unwell.”
Remember that you can treat coughs, colds, flu like symptoms and other minor ailments such as diarrhoea yourself at home.Your pharmacist can also provide free advice for minor illnesses.
If you need further medical advice and it’s not a 999 emergency, then you can use the NHS Direct online symptom checker (www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/checksymptoms) or call 0845 4647). If your symptoms persist and you feel that you need to see a GP when your surgery is closed, then simply call your local practice and listen to the message which will tell you how to contact the GP out of hours service.
People who live in County Durham, Darlington, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland can now call the new free NHS 111, whatever time of day or night, if they need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency.
For more information on good self care visit www.nhs.uk/selfcare
Page last updated: 9 January, 2013