‘Don’t abuse A&E services’

Professor Mark O'Donnell at the Urgent Care Centre (A&E) at Blackpool Victoria Hospital

Professor Mark O'Donnell at the Urgent Care Centre (A&E) at Blackpool Victoria Hospital

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High demand for the accident and emergency department at Blackpool Victoria Hospital has sparked health chiefs to urge patients to stay away – unless it’s urgent.

Mounting winter pressures means A&E units up and down the country are stretched and bosses say many people on the Fylde coast would be better off getting treated elsewhere.

We really need people to remember A&E is for accidents and emergencies

Mark O’Donnell, Dr Amanda Doyle and Dr Tony Naughton

The advice from health experts calls on people suffering from viral coughs, flu and minor ailments to recover at home, leaving A&E doctors and nurses free to help those with life-threatening illness.

It comes as part of a campaign launched by Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust –which runs the Vic –and the two Fylde coast clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) urging people to ‘Think! Why A&E?’

A joint statement issued by the Trust’s medical director Mark O’Donnell, Dr Amanda Doyle, chief clinical officer for Blackpool CCG, and clinical chief officer at Fylde and Wyre CCG Dr Tony Naughton said A&E should be a last resort.

“We really need people to remember that the Accident and Emergency department is strictly for accidents and emergencies,” they said.

“People with minor ailments could face a lengthy wait to be seen and would be better off visiting a pharmacist or looking after themselves at home.

“Anyone who is feeling unwell and isn’t sure what they should do can always ring 111 for help and advice on where to go and who to see.

“The public are also asked to consider appropriate alternatives to A&E such as Whitegate Drive, Same Day Health Centre in Fleetwood, local pharmacies, GP surgeries and dentists.”

Almost 7,000 people attended A&E at the Vic in December and a similar number were recorded in November.

The figures, not yet verified by NHS England, show a 2.6 per cent rise in attendances compared to 2014.

High demand and a back-log of vulnerable patients waiting to be discharged – because cuts to social services mean there are not enough care workers to look after them – have been blamed for lengthy delays at A&E.

During October, almost one in five patients at the Vic was left waiting more than four hours to be admitted, transferred or discharged.

Bosses said they expect A&E to be busy at this time of year but need patients to do their bit to ease the burden on staff.

Dr Cliff Mann, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said: “Seeking advice for management of common symptoms from a pharmacist or NHS 111 offers generally well adults an opportunity to save time and allow A&E departments to ensure they can concentrate on seriously ill patients and those whose health is generally poorer.”