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Public urged to use emergency services wisely over bank holiday

People are being urged to think before going to A&E this bank holiday weekend and only use this service or 999 for serious, life-threatening or dangerous conditions.

Watford General Hospital is currently under particularly heavy pressure and this is having an impact on waiting times in the A&E department. Patients are assessed within 15 minutes of arriving at A&E so that anyone needing urgent treatment is seen quickly but people with a minor illness or complaint are likely to face an extremely long wait.

Dr Vipul Parbat, urgent care lead GP for Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said, "At a time when A&E is under extreme pressure it’s vital that everyone understands the urgency of the situation and what you can do to look after yourself and your loved ones and protect our essential hospital services. If you use emergency services incorrectly, including calling 999 for an ambulance, you may be endangering the life of another person in desperate need of emergency care and you won’t get the best treatment for your illness.

"People who do come to A&E with a minor condition or illness are likely to face extremely long waits or may be sent away to visit a GP or pharmacist."

While people should still call 999 or go to A&E in genuine emergencies such as choking, chest pains, black-outs or prolonged blood loss, there are other services that people can use if they fall ill.

  • NHS 111 offers free round-the-clock help and confidential advice throughout the bank holiday weekend for urgent but non- life-threatening situations. You should also dial 111 if you are unsure where to go to get the right help for your medical condition. NHS111 will refer patients to other suitable services, including a GP consultation or calling an ambulance if needed.
  • If you need to see a GP over the bank holiday when your surgery is closed then you should also dial 111 for the GP out-of-hours service. And if you are registered for Patient Online (ask at your surgery for details) you can book your GP appointment online at a time that suits.
  • For cuts, strains and sprains people should go to the walk-in seven day services at the urgent care centre at Hemel Hempstead Hospital (open 8am to 10pm) or the minor injuries unit at St Albans City Hospital (open 9am to 8pm).
  • Pharmacists offer expert advice and low-cost medicines to ease symptoms and help treat conditions such as coughs, colds, headaches and diarrhoea. Every area has a late opening or seven day pharmacy and most have consulting rooms where you can ask for advice in private. Go to www.nhs.uk/servicesearch to find your nearest open pharmacist.
  • The NHS Choices website www.nhs.uk covers thousands of illnesses and conditions and offers advice and information on how to look after yourself and your family.