A&E is for ... accidents and emergencies!
More than 12,000 people visited the A&E department at Grimsby's Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital during November, December and January 2011-12. The majority of people – 4,274 – attended throughout December, a month which usually sees a rise in serious and life-threatening cases anyway. Medical experts are stressing the importance of knowing and choosing the best NHS service over winter, aiming to reduce the number of unnecessary visits to hospital. Health reporter KATIE BLACKBURN finds out why A&E should not always be the first port of call for help...
AN OVERGROWN toenail is one of many examples of ailments people turn up to A&E seeking treatment for.
Cases such as this have led Oltunde Ashaolu, clinical director of Accident and Emergency at Grimsby's Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital, to urge patients to think twice before heading to hospital for help.
He is supporting the national Choose Well campaign, which aims to educate and inform people about the different NHS services available.
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It promotes self-care and the use of local high street pharmacies for common complaints such as coughs and colds, flu, stomach upsets and general aches and pains.
Mr Ashaolu hopes with some clear direction, people will be deterred from coming to A&E unless it is the last resort.
He said: "A&E is not an alternative to an individual's GP.
"It is not appropriate for people to turn up at our door simply because they cannot get an immediate appointment with their GP.
"A&E doctors are specialists in accidents and emergencies and there is a strong possibility that patients will be redirected to the GP surgery if that is the place to obtain the best care."
Mr Ashaolu reminds people of the incidents that will need emergency care and treatment in hospital.
Severe chest pain.
Fever and being persistently lethargic, despite having paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Head injury and vomiting.
Heavy blood loss.
Severe abdominal pain.
A cut that won't stop bleeding or is gaping open.
A leg or arm injury and inability to use the limb.
Swallowing poison or tablets.
An object lodged in nose or ear.
He continued: "Most simple ailments will begin to get better within a couple of days and the GP is usually the patient's most appropriate initial point of call."
In addition, paramedics are reminding people to only call 999 in situations such as the above and not for casual advice.
Hoax or inappropriate phone calls potentially put other people's lives at risk who need emergency attention.
In the past, East Midland's Ambulance Service has received calls because:
It was raining and the caller didn't have a coat.
The caller's pet budgerigar had breathing difficulties.
The caller wanted advice on how to defrost a turkey.
Steve Pratten, operations manager at East Midlands Ambulance Service, said: "These sort of calls can be the difference between life and death."
A GP out-of-hours contact is available for anyone needing urgent care when their surgery is closed.
The line is open from 6.30pm through to 8am everyday of the week, including weekends and bank holidays. Call 01472 256222.