Region’s NHS appeal for people to help our vital services by using them wisely

Tue 17th December 2019

The NHS across the North East and North Cumbria has launched a major public awareness campaign in a bid to help ease pressure on busy frontline teams and make sure people use our valuable NHS resources wisely.

As the NHS prepares to manage the increase in demand which is expected at this time of year, health chiefs are making an important appeal by urging people:

  • To keep hospital emergency departments free for those who are in immediate need of emergency treatment or life-saving care
  • Not to abuse emergency 999 ambulance services – with over 40% of people calling 999 not needing to go to hospital
  • To ‘think pharmacy first’ for many common winter illnesses which can be safely treated with over the counter medication and advice from a pharmacist
  • To use extra appointments which are available on evenings, weekends and bank holidays by contacting their GP practice
  • To use NHS 111 online or call NHS 111 for urgent medical advice before turning up to any frontline services.

As the region prepares for its busiest weekend of festivities with people out enjoying themselves, the NHS is also appealing for people to drink sensibly during their Christmas celebrations and to wrap up warm in the cold weather conditions.  The North East has some of the highest alcohol-related hospital admissions in the whole country and NHS bosses are urging people to act responsibility to avoid putting extra strain on busy frontline teams.

The major public awareness campaign will run throughout 2020, urges people to ‘think before they act’ and appeals to the public conscience to ask people to really consider how they are using local NHS services.

Helen Ray, Chief Executive of North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust and Co-Chair of the North East and North Cumbria Urgent and Emergency Care Network, said:  “We really want people to think about how they are using our precious NHS resources.  This is a really busy time of year for us and staff across all parts of the NHS are working incredibly hard so it’s important that we all take responsibility for our actions.

“There is no question that the NHS will always be here for you when you need us most, but we also need your help to act responsibly.  Our paramedic teams are under immense pressure and it’s vital that we can free up ambulances to reach those who are in genuine need of immediate life-saving care.

“Over 40% of people who call 999 for an emergency ambulance don’t need to be taken to hospital and there is a common misconception that arriving to hospital by ambulance will mean you get seen quicker.  This is simply not true and the NHS will always treat people based on the urgency of their clinical need, not how they arrived at hospital.”

Winter always means additional pressure across all parts of the health service due to common seasonal illnesses circulating in the community.  Hospitals also see an increase in emergency admissions from those who are more vulnerable and at risk of becoming seriously unwell during the cold winter months.  This includes people with breathing or heart problems, older people and those suffering from other long-term health conditions.

The NHS in the region is well prepared for these pressures which continue to rise year-on-year, but health staff also need the public’s help to keep emergency services free for those who need them most.

Dr Stewart Findlay, Chief Officer at Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield Clinical Commissioning Group and Co-Chair of the North East and North Cumbria’s Urgent and Emergency Care Network said: “We are appealing to the goodwill of people across the region to help our busy NHS teams and really take some personal accountability for how they use services.

“Our NHS provides a fantastic service but we need people to respect it and use it properly.  We know there are still hundreds of instances of people accessing hospital emergency services for relatively minor problems which can be easily treated by other parts of the NHS.

“We really want people to stop and think about how they use services so that those in genuine need of an emergency ambulance or life-saving care get the help they need.  Our amazing NHS staff are under intense pressure and doing a fantastic job caring for seriously ill people, but they need your support more than ever before.”

People across the region are being urged to use the new NHS 111 online service for advice on arrange of illnesses and to call NHS 111 if they are unsure what to do.  A wealth of NHS services are available across the region to treat less serious injuries and illnesses.

For most people who are normally fit and healthy, many common winter illnesses will usually clear up or their own accord with good self care, lots of fluid, plenty of rest and over the counter medication.

People with vomiting and diarrhoea should stay away from hospitals and GP surgeries until they are at least 48 hours symptom-free so they don’t pass on their bugs and put staff and patients at risk.  People are advised to take sensible steps to protect themselves and their loved ones by washing their hands regularly with soap and water, especially after going to the toilet.

As the number of people suffering from flu increases, the NHS across the region is also urging those at risk*, including all frontline NHS staff, to take up their offer of a free vaccination as a matter of urgency.  Vaccination is the single most effective way to prevent catching the flu and to protect yourself and others, especially those at risk of serious complications.