Reminder about A&E changes

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People across Northumberland are being urged to use the right NHS service for the severity of their symptoms and to keep the new Northumbria hospital free for the seriously ill or injured.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has issued the public message following a high number of inappropriate attendances at the new Northumbria hospital during the busy winter period.

Examples from the past few weeks alone include people accessing the specialist emergency care hospital for ongoing problems such as a bad back, requesting routine blood checks and for minor problems such as sore throats, small cuts, eye problems, period pains and, on one occasion, a splinter in the finger.

Most of these problems are most effectively dealt with in primary care via routine GP appointments, by simply looking after yourself well at home, or if necessary, attending a 24/7 Urgent Care Centre - they do not require a trip to the new Northumbria hospital.

If people do need urgent medical help or advice for minor problems, the trust is advising people to use Urgent Care Centres at Wansbeck, North Tyneside and Hexham general hospitals which are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week or to call NHS 111.

Waiting times at the trust’s Urgent Care Centres are extremely low with an average wait of an hour and a half, meaning people can be seen very promptly if they need urgent care without having to wait behind serious emergencies. The trust also has Minor Injury Units across Northumberland in Alnwick, Berwick, Blyth and Haltwhistle.

Dr Jane Weatherstone is associate medical director for primary and community care at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and a GP who works in North Tyneside Urgent Care Centre.

She said: “Winter is the busiest time of year for the NHS and some of the cases we’ve seen recently at our new Northumbria Hospital would have been much better dealt with elsewhere, leaving our busy teams free to care for the most serious emergencies.

“We are continuing to embed our recent A&E changes and appreciate that it has been a major service change for local people and one which is at the forefront of the NHS. It is important, however, that everyone takes responsibility for using services appropriately. Our Urgent Care Centres are open 24/7 and we would urge people to attend these walk-in services for minor problems or to call NHS 111.”