Know your healthcare options

Posted on Mon, 15/01/2018

The NHS in the North East and North Cumbria is asking people to think carefully and consider which health service to use.

After a busy festive period, ailments arising from cold weather and flu as well as cases of the winter bug, norovirus, mean demand on NHS services is heightened.

Conditions like heart disease, stroke and lung illnesses, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), are worsened by the cold weather. It can also be a difficult time for asthma suffers, while cases of respiratory illness often go up 100%, causing hospital beds to fill up quickly.

People are being urged, at the first sign of minor ailment, to self-care or get advice from their local pharmacy. They are also being reminded that by choosing the right service, you can get the best treatment in the shortest possible time, whilst keeping A&E departments free to treat patients with the most serious conditions who need urgent care.

During the festive period and into the New Year, many NHS services have put additional medical and support staff in place to manage increased demand. And many general practices are now open later on evenings as well as weekends.

NHS England’s Medical Director for Cumbria and the North East, Professor Chris Gray, said: “Our hospitals are currently seeing high volumes of very unwell patients and we are taking all action possible to ensure they are provided with the care they need.

“To manage the increased demand that we experience every winter, we have plans in place to ensure that services continue to run as smoothly as possible while ensuring that patients’ needs continue to be met 24-hours a day.

“It’s not about stopping those who need urgent medical attention from going to A&E, but about helping at-risk groups stay well and ward off common winter illnesses before they become seriously ill and need a hospital stay.

“We are also urging people with a non-urgent medical complaint to support us by making full use of alternative community services such as their local pharmacist. This can really help reduce pressure on other parts of the NHS such as calls to 999 or visits to A&E.

“Those in at risk categories can also help by getting their free flu jab. It’s the best way to ensure protection against catching flu and developing serious complications.”

People with winter coughs and colds who are contacting their GP or visiting A&E to get ‘checked out’ are being asked to look after themselves as NHS services come under increasing pressure.

GP practices in the region are reporting that some patients are asking for appointments to get ‘checked out’, or are requesting antibiotics as they’re concerned that their winter cough hasn’t cleared up after two weeks  Antibiotics are not effective for viruses such as colds.

For many winter ailments such as coughs, colds and flu-like symptoms, people don’t need to go to A&E or their local GP practice and are better off taking some paracetamol, drinking plenty of fluids and resting.

If you care for children, the child health app is free to download and offers a wealth of advice and support.

The app is part of the NHS awareness and education ‘plasticine people’ campaign in Cumbria and the North East, to help influence the decisions people make about which health service to use and to improve patient flow and experience across the health system in the region.

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