Posted on Monday 1st November 2010
Figures released today show the toll that unnecessary visits to our region’s hospitals are taking. One out of every four people who goes to A&E in the North West does not need to be there, at a cost of £79.25 million a year – and the cost is rising. Staff at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust are giving their backing to the Choose Well campaign, which aims to tackle the rise in A&E attendances.
The number of people using A&E – and 999 services – is going up year on year in the North West. New services have been introduced, such as walk-in centres, minor injuries units and urgent care centres in many areas, and have helped to ease some of the pressure; but the numbers of people using emergency services continues to rise.
Mike Walker, Medical Director of North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust which runs the Cumberland Infirmary and West Cumberland Hospital, said: “I think that we need to get back to the message that A&E departments are for life-threatening and emergency conditions, such as heart attacks, strokes, breathing problems and serious accidents. We need to make sure we can concentrate on helping these emergency cases.”
A&E teams are faced with having to deal with cases such as coughs and colds, backache and upset stomachs on a daily basis – conditions that could be dealt with through a trip to the high-street chemist.
Mr Walker added: “Through Choose Well we want re-educate people about using the right service to get the right treatment. We’ve introduced a ‘traffic light’ system to highlight the appropriate services to use. We really need to get local people on our side with this issue.”
The Choose Well traffic light system gives the public colour-coded options ranging from blue for self-care and green for calling NHS Direct and visiting your local pharmacy, through to yellow for seeing your GP, orange for visiting an NHS walk-in centre and finally red for visiting A&E in the most extreme cases. By showing people how many options are out there, depending on the severity of the symptoms, A&E staff hope their time will be freed up to treat real emergencies.
Details of how to choose the right NHS services in your local area can be found at www.cumbria.nhs.uk/YourHealth/ChooseWell or by calling NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.