People living in and visiting Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire are being urged to use the NHS appropriately this bank holiday weekend, so that those who need urgent treatment can get it when they need it.
Residents and visitors are being asked to think carefully about whether a trip to one of the region’s hospitals is really necessary, as new data shows a surge in people visiting busy emergency departments unnecessarily for minor health concerns.
During July 2021, 162 people visited hospital with a sore throat, while a further 17 people arrived at one of the region’s three emergency departments, which are intended for those with very serious or life-threatening illnesses and injuries, after spending too long in the sun.
Dr Andrew Girdher, Clinical Chair, Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire, said: “From hospitals to GP practices, the NHS as a whole is incredibly busy right now, and we need everyone to play their part in supporting our teams on the front line.
“We know that some people with minor ailments will visit an emergency department to ensure they receive same-day care, but doing so pulls already-busy medical teams away from looking after those most in need.
“Ensuring the sickest people in our communities, such as those who have lost consciousness, been involved in a serious accident or had a heart attack, can get the help they need when they need it is critical, and visiting hospital for a sore throat gets in the way of us being able to do this.”
People in need of medical help over the bank holiday weekend are urged to use the right health and care service for their needs, which may be to self-care or to visit a pharmacy. The ambulance service is for people with genuine life-threatening emergencies when 999 should be called immediately.
Dr Girdher explains, “Help for minor health concerns is available through local pharmacies and by visiting NHS 111 online, both of which can offer diagnoses, treatment and, where appropriate, referrals to other nearby services”.
The public are also being asked to help ease pressure on hospitals by ensuring they collect their loved ones from hospital as soon as they are medically ready to be discharged.
Dr Charlotte Forsyth, Medical Director at Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation trust in Swindon said: “All of the hospitals across our region are under extreme pressure at the moment and we need the public’s help to protect local NHS services so they are ready for those who require them most.
“One way we can do this is by speeding up discharges for those who are ready to go home. If your loved one needs collecting from hospital, please help us by ensuring this is done as quickly as possible. This will help to free up a bed for someone else who needs it.”
The call for support from the public comes just days after health and care leaders advised parents of young children to know the early signs and symptoms of traditional winter respiratory illnesses that have been circulating during the recent summer months.
It is thought that due to last year’s Covid-19 restrictions, many young children have not built up a natural immunity to the common cold, flu or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
In some cases, RSV can lead to bronchiolitis, and parents are being asked to look out for symptoms such as persistent coughing, wheezing and breathing difficulties, as well as a loss of appetite and increased irritability.
As with all other non-urgent healthcare, parents who notice any of the above symptoms are advised to access the NHS 111 service, either online or by phone.
Detailed information about RSV, as well as where to go for healthcare this bank holiday weekend, is available online at www.bswccg.nhs.uk.