Plea to help keep demand down at A&E this winter

An ambulance at Queen Alexandra Hospital's accident and emergency department. Picture: Ian Hargreaves
An ambulance at Queen Alexandra Hospital's accident and emergency department. Picture: Ian Hargreaves
Maureen Hunter

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PATIENTS are being urged to steer clear of A&E where possible as latest figures show the department is still being flooded with people who could be treated elsewhere.

It comes as the NHS gears up for its busiest time of the year.

In October, Queen Alexandra Hospital’s A&E department saw on average 277 patients a day.

And between November 1 to November 23, this figure stood at 281.

During October and November, of those who attended, 1,046 went because they had a fracture, 1,019 because of a sprain or ligament injury and 695 because of bites or cuts.

Many of these ailments can be dealt with by going to a pharmacy, GP, minor injuries unit or a walk-in centre.

Now health officials are urging people to choose well to make sure they are getting the quickest treatment at the right place.

Clinical Commissioning Groups pay Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs QA, to provide the service.

Dr Jim Hogan, A&E lead for the three CCGs in Portsmouth and south-east Hampshire, said: ‘Emergency department staff at QA must be able to devote their precious time to those patients in greatest need, and we always encourage people to use other services, where appropriate.

‘Emergency department attendances vary over time, and so any single month’s figures can only offer a snapshot view, but we must keep trying to ensure people know the options available to them.

‘There are lots of excellent alternatives for people to use instead of a trip up to QA, 
if they have a health 
problem they think might be urgent.

‘The NHS 111 helpline is a very good service, all GPs offer same-day appointments, and pharmacists are a convenient source of expert advice.

‘As a general rule, if it isn’t an emergency, or you’re not sure what to do, my advice would be to call 111 first.’

As reported, in October the A&E system was put on ‘black alert’ as scores of people 
were left queuing in the hospital.

It was in place for six days as the system failed to get to grips with the number of people attending.

At its peak more than 100 patients were waiting to be seen in the department.

The NHS target is for 95 per cent of patients to be seen, treated or discharged within four hours of arriving at A&E.