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How you can help the health service deal with winter pressures

Health services are particularly busy at the moment and we are asking everyone to think carefully before going to the emergency department at Watford General Hospital.

Emergency departments come under heavy pressure every winter and this is especially true when there is severe bad weather as there has been over recent days. Treacherous road conditions make it harder for the hospital to discharge patients, yet admissions remain high.

Patients can help by using health services wisely and are being given the following advice:

  • A&E is for patients requiring emergency care for serious and life-threatening conditions. Please use the service carefully so it can best support those who need it most - people with chest pain or blood loss, or who are blacking out or choking. We can all help by not over-burdening the service and using it only when we need to.
  • In a non-emergency situation phone NHS 111. Calls are free from any phone and the service is open 24 hours a day. Highly trained advisers will ask callers a series of questions to assess their symptoms and immediately direct them to the best medical care for their needs. NHS 111 can also help patients access the GP out-of‐hours service to receive treatment overnight or arrange an urgent GP appointment – or will call an ambulance in the case of serious injury or illness.
  • If you need urgent care (but your problem isn’t life-threatening) you can go to the Urgent Treatment Centre at Hemel Hospital from 8am to 10pm each day or the Minor Injuries Unit at St Albans City Hospital which is open from 9am to 8pm daily.
  • People can help to relieve pressure on health services by making use of their local pharmacy. Pharmacists can offer trusted, confidential advice on a range of issues whether it’s a cough, cold or managing a long-term condition. They are highly trained and able to say if something needs more urgent medical attention. A wide range of basic medicines can be bought that will help treat minor illnesses including coughs, colds and flu from your local pharmacy. Many of these remedies can also be bought from a supermarket or your local convenience store.
  • For immediate life-threatening emergencies always dial 999.