Public reminded to use 999 and emergency department services wisely

Wed 23rd January 2019

The NHS is urging people to use 999 and Emergency Departments (A&E) wisely as the region’s emergency services report an increase in pressure.

With increasing demand on services, people are asked to consider whether their condition really needs emergency treatment from the ambulance service or their local hospital.

Several hospitals are reporting high demand following the colder weather over the past few days and the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) is asking the public to think before dialling 999 or attending emergency departments.

The region’s services are all reporting an increase in patients presenting with flu-like symptoms, many of whom could have sought help elsewhere, such as a pharmacist or GP.

Dr Stewart Findlay, Co-Chair of the North East and North Cumbria Urgent and Emergency Care Network, said: “Pressure is growing on our emergency departments and it is crucial that we all use these services wisely.

“Many common health complaints can be treated at home, or with advice from a pharmacist, making sure that busy emergency departments can concentrate on patients with life-threatening conditions.

“If you need urgent medical care and your GP is not available, you can call NHS 111, where health advisors are available 24 hours a day.

“Pharmacists are highly trained and can provide confidential advice conveniently and without an appointment. You can also now access a GP in the evening or at weekends, through local extended access schemes.”

After feeling increased pressure, the ambulance service is putting in additional plans to be able to maintain an effective and safe operational and clinical response for patients.

Victoria Court, NEAS deputy chief operating officer, said: “The demand on our service is currently seven per cent higher compared to the same time last year and we have had an increase of ten per cent in emergency calls for patients with serious symptoms.

“We are also experiencing an increase in people calling with flu-like symptoms, which should be managed at home with over the counter medicines from the local pharmacy.

“Please help us reach those patients who need us most by using 999 for life-threatening emergencies only.”

For pharmacy opening hours and health advice, visit: or

How to look after yourself if you have flu:

  • rest and sleep
  • keep warm
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower your temperature and treat aches and pains
  • drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (your pee should be light yellow or clear)

To reduce the risk of spreading flu:

  • wash your hands often with warm water and soap
  • use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze
  • bin used tissues as quickly as possible

Examples of medical emergencies include:

  • Chest pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Unconsciousness
  • Severe loss of blood
  • Severe burns
  • Choking
  • Fitting
  • Drowning
  • Severe allergic reactions

Anyone with an urgent need, which is not life-threatening but think they think they might need to see a healthcare professional the same day, can call NHS 111.

Examples of urgent care needs include:

  • Minor head, ear or eye problems
  • Sprains, strains, cuts and bites
  • Children’s minor injuries and ailments
  • Abscesses or wound infections