“Swamped” accident and emergency departments could be cleared if more patients visited pharmacies instead, health chiefs today claimed.
Public health and hospital bosses have called on more people with minor symptoms to visit chemists instead of clogging up doctors’ surgeries and A&E departments.
It comes just days after North West Ambulance chief executive Bob Williams told of concerns that a winter spike in emergencies could leave the service struggling to cope following ‘unprecedented’ summer demand.
Coun Eddie Collett, Blackpool Council’s portfolio holder for health, said: “People go to the doctors when they don’t really need to and it is felt they could take good advice from chemists.
“There’s a resistance from some people from doing that and there’s no logic to it.
“There is still an expectation from a large section of the community that when you’re ill you’ve got to see a doctor rather than going to see a well-trained chemist.”
“We must reduce the demand on the accident and emergency service which is absolutely getting swamped.”
Coun Collett says he hopes to improve pharmacy services across the resort in the next six months, with more chemists open longer hours a more likely option than new shops being opened across the resort. He said: “We probably don’t physically need that many more chemists but we might want some of the more local ones to stay open later.
“The ones attached to supermarkets tend to be open late at the moment but the other ones don’t so much outside normal shopping hours.”
It comes following a surge in the number of emergency incidents this summer which has prompted concern among ambulance bosses.
A spokesman for Blackpool Victoria Hospital said he could not provide figures on how busy A&E is expected to be this winter.
But hospital bosses are urging people to be prepared for the winter by having a well stocked medicine cabinet and by considering the full range of NHS services available to them.
Dr Mark O’Donnell, Medical Director at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “If you do need medical care, choosing the right service by heeding the Choose Well message may reduce the time you wait for appropriate treatment.
“Many common complaints, such as backache, minor sports injuries, upset stomachs, coughs, colds and flu like symptoms can be treated by having a well stocked medicine cabinet.
“Just having a few basic essentials at home can help you to treat the symptoms of many common illnesses and injuries.
“Patients can also get advice from the NHS 111 help-line, or by accessing one of the range of services available in Blackpool, including local community pharmacies, a patient’s own GP practice and walk-in centres.”
Unnecessary visits to A&E departments waste valuable NHS resources and could mean some patients are having to wait longer to be treated, according to senior doctors at Trust.
A&E teams are routinely being faced with having to deal with minor cases such as small cuts, coughs and colds on a daily basis.
Mr Simon Tucker, Emergency Department Consultant at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, said: “We are receiving patients here at the emergency department who could have been treated in a primary care service such as a walk in centre or GP. These patients will usually be low priority and this means they could be waiting longer than most others in A&E.
“By choosing and using the right health services, patients can expect to be seen or treated more quickly, whilst keeping emergency services free for those patients with serious and life threatening illnesses. We need to keep A&E departments for those people who are extremely unwell and need urgent medical attention.”